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Waldorf brings competitive streak into fall season

Waldorf Warriors LogoBy: Matt Oliver

FOREST CITY – With the fall season set to begin this weekend, the Waldorf University men’s golf team has been working to perfect its game in order to contend in every tournament and competition.

“The team has a lot of desire and willingness to improve,” Waldorf coach Mark Clouse said. “I can see the improvement, which helps build confidence and raise expectations. I have every reason to believe that we will be a very competitive team this year.”

The Warriors are coming off a 2015-16 season that included a fifth-place finish in the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Championships. During the course of last season, they also won the Waldorf Invitational and brought home the Purple Cup after besting NCAA Division III’s Iowa Wesleyan University in a friendly match-play rivalry. This past spring, the Warriors placed in the top five in six of its seven tournaments. Progressing to the next level is on the team’s agenda.

“We had a nice year in 2015-16, and I am optimistic that the success will continue this year,” said Clouse, who begins his seventh year with the Warriors. “Our team utilized the summer to compete in tournaments and work on their games, so they should be ready for the fall campaign.”

Hugo Becerra returns for Waldorf after leading the team with 76.90 strokes per round last season and earning all-conference honors for the second straight year. The senior from Ocotlan, Mexico won the Waldorf Invitational last October with an even-par score of 71 at Forest City’s Bear Creek Golf Course. He recorded seven top-10 performances, finishing in the top five in five tournaments. Becerra capped the 2015-16 season with first-team all-conference honors as he took fourth in the NSAA Championships, closing out the cumulative four-round, 72-hole tournament with 305 strokes.

Senior Thomas O’Rourke and sophomore Zabdiel Flores, who each provided top-10 finishes last year, are also ready to help set the tone for the Warriors.

“Hugo, Thomas and Zabdiel all bring extensive tournament experience to the team and should provide a solid foundation,” Clouse said.

Seniors Chad Hein, Austin Sommer, Becerra and O’Rourke will be looked to as veteran leaders when the team takes the links.

“Chad and Austin will also provide some depth to our team,” Clouse said.

Justin Pierce is the lone freshmen joining the Warriors this season.

“Justin is an excellent addition to the squad, and I look for him to be a big contributor,” Clouse said.

Waldorf opens the fall season in the Augsburg College Invitational, beginning the two-day tournament on Saturday at Ham Lake, Minnesota at 1 p.m. It’s expected to be a great test for the team.

“There will be about 110 players competing in the event with some nationally-ranked teams in the field,” Clouse said. “We will be playing some top-notch competition, so it should give a clearer picture of what we need to improve as we prepare for the fall conference championship.”

The Warriors made their debut in the NSAA during the 2016-17 campaign and closed out the four-round conference tournament last spring with 1,284 strokes. Bellevue University, which is receiving votes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) preseason poll, won last year’s NSAA title with 1,209 strokes to advance to the NAIA National Championships. Viterbo University (1,230) claimed second while the University of Jamestown (1,266), Valley City State University (1,282), Waldorf (1,284), Dickinson State University (1,415) and Presentation College (1,539) completed the team standings.

The Warriors compete in seven tournaments this fall, playing at Bear Creek Golf Course twice. They look to retain the Purple Cup in a match-play home competition against Iowa Wesleyan on Oct. 17 and then host the Waldorf Invitational on Oct. 18. Waldorf also hosts the fall stage of the NSAA Championships on Sept. 26-27 at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Coming off a strong offseason, the Warriors are ready to pursue success as they come to the course with a competitive edge.

“We had very good results after some hard work in the summer months,” Clouse said. “Our team is relatively young, so it’s rewarding to have the success that we experienced, both as a team and on an individual level.”