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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

COLUMN: Men’s golf is on the rise

Graduate student Zach Place takes a shot during NIU mens golfs practice. The Huskies are looking to break through early-season struggles and repeat as MAC champions. (Courtesy of NIU Athletics)
Courtesy NIU Athletics
Graduate student Zach Place takes a shot during NIU men’s golf’s practice. The Huskies are looking to break through early-season struggles and repeat as MAC champions. (Courtesy of NIU Athletics)

DeKALB – So far this season, NIU men’s golf has competed in four tournaments. Although the Huskies have yet to crack the top-five this season, their best showing was at the VCU Shootout, placing tied for sixth place. 

Despite the slow start to the Huskies’ season, I am not worried about the team going forward and think they can be MAC Champions for the second straight year this spring. 

The team’s slow start this year is similar to the 2022 Fall Season. Last fall, NIU competed in five tournaments. NIU’s best finish was eighth at the Saint Mary’s Invitational and its worst – a disastrous 17th place finish at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate. 

BEN SLUZAS IS THE FUTURE

The Huskies face the rest of the season behind junior Ben Sluzas, their top golfer. 

Sluzas has been the leading contributor to NIU’s recent success, leading the team in every statistical category. Sluzas is NIU’s most highly recruited golfer and has backed it up with his efficiency. 

Going into his third season at NIU, Sluzas has six top-20 finishes, five coming within the top-10. Sluzas received three MAC Golfer of the Week honors last season, as well as earning a spot on the 2023 All-MAC team. 

Sluzas logged two individual victories last season, placing first at last year’s Badger Invitational and also at the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate. 

This season, according to NIU Athletics, Sluzas has an impressive 70.750 stroke average and a round-low score of 66 – three strokes better than NIU’s second golfer. Sluzas is by far the best golfer for the Huskies and has a bright future. 

MORE DEPTH

Outside of Sluzas, the Huskies’ have improved their depth with two new acquisitions as well as successful development.

Last season, it seemed as though Sluzas and alumni Tommy Dunsire – graduated last spring – had to put up top-10 finishes for the team to be successful. The Huskies had talent outside of the two, but consistency was an issue. 

After picking up graduate transfer Josh Kirkham and junior Felix Krammer, the Huskies finally have depth to lean back on. 

Krammer already keyed his first MAC Co-Golfer of the Week award after finishing tied for fourth place at the Badger Invitational. This is an example of other team members stepping up in case Sluzas underperforms. To his standards, Sluzas struggled, finishing tied for 35th place at the Badger Invitational. 

Kirkham is the fourth golfer on the Huskies’ lineup, but recently caught a stride at the Purdue Fall Invitational, cracking the top-30 for the first time this season. 

A member of the team who stepped up is graduate student Zach Place. Place had a timid 2022-23 season, catching fire near the end of last year’s spring season. So far in the fall, Place has improved his scoring average by three strokes and has set his career round low of 66 at the VCU Shootout.

Place is also coming off his best placement this year, recently finishing in fourth place at the Purdue Fall Invitational. 

TEAM WILL SUCCEED IN MAC CHAMPIONSHIP

The Huskies’ made history last year, winning their first MAC Championship since 1985. With the additions of Kirkham and Krammer, the Huskies have a good chance to repeat this year. 

Even though the Huskies have started off slow, the MAC Championship is in May, giving NIU time. If the team can settle in and continue to develop chemistry, the sky’s the limit.

The Huskies next tournament is the Quail Valley Collegiate Invitational. The event is an all day event ranging from Sundaythrough Monday at the Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach, Florida. Live stats will be available through GolfStat.

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