Men’s golf opens season with 20 stroke victory

Dunsire’s Saturday 66 takes home individual victory

NIU+junior+Tommy+Dunsire+rips+driver+Oct.+9%2C+during+an+intra-squad+competition+at+Rich+Harvest+Farms+in+Sugar+Grove%2C+Illinois.

Courtesy NIU Athletics

NIU junior Tommy Dunsire rips driver Oct. 9, during an intra-squad competition at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.

Wes Sanderson, Editor-in-Chief

DeKALB — After a winter storm pushed the men’s golf team’s season opener by one week, the Huskies returned to the fairways to compete against the Missouri State University Bears in a dual-meet in Springfield, Missouri.

While the weather in Springfield had feel-like numbers hovering around 50 degrees, the Huskies were red hot for a team making its season debut. The Huskies outplayed the Bears over the two day match, securing a team score of even-par 572 for the 36-hole match, 20 clear of the Bears who recorded a +20, 592.

“It’s a really good start to the season,” NIU Head Coach John Carlson said. “It was good to see the guys deal with some bad bounces and tough breaks. They came in here and handled adversity and beat a good team.” 

While the overall team margin of victory was impressive, NIU junior Tommy Dunsire carding a 5-under 138 enroute to a four shot victory on the individual leaderboard stole the show Saturday.

“Making eight birdies today, I didn’t see coming,” Dunsire said. “But it was nice to see.”

Dunsire started the dual-meet by carding an even-par 72 in his Friday round at Highland Springs Country Club, before coming out Saturday and carding a 5-under 66, which included six straight birdies on holes six through 12.

“I think I hit it really well the first day, [but] the putts weren’t just going in the first day,” Dunsire said. “I knew they’d eventually come, and they just started pouring in through a 10-hole stretch, so it was nice to see.” 

Dunsire recorded 10 birdies over the 36 hole event and showed the strides he’s continuing to make as a collegiate golfer, but even with such a positive moment, Dunsire still found room for improvement.

“I need to work on being comfortable being seven-under,” Dunsire said. “I finished bogey, bogey, so just working on that mental stuff will help me in those situations.”

Graduate student Jordan Less came into Saturday’s final round chasing the leader, Missouri State red-shirt senior Christopher Obert, who slept on a one shot lead Saturday, but Less and company were more focused on the big picture of finishing off this road meet.

“We had [Missouri State] on the upper edge going into Saturday,” Less said. “We just had more of a positive mindset going into Saturday compared to what the Missouri St. guys were feeling.” 

Sunday’s final pairing saw Less and Obert teeing it up with Huskie graduate student Michael Mattas, who fired a Friday round of even par and was in contention. In total, NIU saw four players within striking distance of the lead before Sunday’s round.

“We had everyone in the game,” Calrson said. “Yesterday was a little bit different, where we had a couple of guys struggling on the golf course. Today everyone controlled the ball off the tee and take advantage of some of the holes on the front-nine.”

After 36 holes of golf, the Huskies saw five players sit inside the top-six for the individual leaderboard. Along with Dunsire, who took home the victory, Less finished solo-second, Mattas solo-fourth and junior Reece Nilsen finished solo-sixth with a +6, 149 just one shot away from a podium finish.

“That score [Nilsen] shot today was probably the maximum for him,” Carlson said. “I think [Nilsen] is definitely going to be one of the players to watch in the Twin Oaks Intercollegiate field.”

Carlson’s squad has set a baseline for the 2021 campaign, and gained experience on a course that the team is set to return to March 22 in Twin Oaks C.C. for the Twin Oaks Intercollegiate.

“There’s quite a few quirky holes, and it’s good to know the lines off the tee and discuss them as a team,” Less said. “I think it’s just good to see it one more time before then.”

Sophomore Zach Place went under the radar at Twin Oaks C.C., firing a 68 Saturday after recording an 85 the day prior.

“Golf is going to throw a lot at you, and unfortunately, it threw 85 at [Place] yesterday,” Carlson said. “For him to come back today was one of the more impressive feats of the weekend.”

Handling adversity has been huge in the Huskies’ preparation, and Place has given his team a great example early in a season that will see the team in lots of uncharted waters.

In the meantime, Carlson and the team are preparing to travel west to San Diego, California, to compete in the Lamkin San Diego Classic on March 8 to10.

“We just need to keep being as detailed in our preparation as we can be,” Carlson said. “That starts with our workouts we do in the mornings, the stretching routines and just being very consistent as we head into a very strong field.” 

NIU will face stout competition at the Lamkin Classic. The invitational field is set to feature the University of Washington, San Diego State University, UCLA, San Jose State University and the University of Southern California, but with momentum in its sail, the Huskies hope to bring their confidence in Springfield all the way to the west coast.

“We’re going to bring five guys who just came off a 20-shot win,” Carlson said. “I know they’re ready for the competition ahead.”