The Denver men’s golf squad was back on the course in Palm Springs for the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate on Feb. 17-19. The tournament was held at the Classic Club, a par 72 track playing 7,322 yards, but it likely felt a bit longer for the Pioneers after having been practicing in the thin air of Colorado.
Despite windy conditions on day one, Senior Petter Mikalsen (Stavanger, Norway) put the team in a good position by carding a solid one under par 71 in round one. However, he would drop a few shots on Saturday, leaving him at one over par and tied for 25th going into the final round.
Junior Jake Kelley (Littleton, Colorado) would be the other major contributor through the first two rounds and sat tied for 39th at three over after play on Saturday. Junior Chris Korte (Littleton, Colorado), who was just recently named Summit League Men’s Golfer of the Week, was forced to withdraw from the tournament’s first round due to sickness, but he showed resilience with a second round one over par. The Pios looked up at the top of the leaderboard from a tie for 13th with one loop left.
“The course was vulnerable today and nobody really took advantage of it,” Head Coach Erik Billinger said after Saturday’s play. “With that said, a lot of the guys are hitting it great and some good scores are just around the corner.”
The team would turn in strong performances across the board on Sunday, putting them in a tie for 12th out of 22 competing teams when play ceased. Korte would lead the team with an even par 72, and Mikalsen, Freshman Eric Hagen (Aberdeen, Washington) and Kelley would all match each other with final rounds of 74, at two over par. DU would shoot a collective score of 891 (304,293,294), 27 over par, and this would leave them 53 strokes behind the defending national champion University of Oregon who would take first place at 26 under par.
On the individual side, Mikalsen turned in the lowest score to par on the team with a cumulative three over par score, and he would finish in a tie for 31st. Kelley ended play at five over par and in a tie for 42nd, Hagen at 11 over landed in a tie for 72nd and Freshman Isaac Petersilie (Colorado Springs, Colorado) shot a total of 14 over par, which put him in a tie for 90th.
Freshmen Roy Kang (North Vancouver, British Columbia) and Troy Dangler (Grand Junction, Colorado) were competing as individuals only and finished in ties for 96th (15 over par) and 101st (17 over par), respectively. Korte was unable to place individually due to his withdraw on Friday.
“Glad that our bad scores are much better than they have been in the past,” said Billinger after the final round, “but we need to get a lot better. Petter, Jake and Chris had a pretty solid weekend, and this team is only going to get better as the spring season progresses.”
Denver is currently sitting atop the Summit League standings in team scoring average at 295.1 strokes per round with Korte (73.13 strokes per round) and Mikalsen (73.53 strokes per round) leading the way. While they have finished in the middle of the pack in their first two spring events, they have been up against some of the top teams in the nation. It is important to note the team’s success compared to their league competition, and the potential this shows moving forward.
The team will have a short break before heading to the Bandon Dunes Championship in Bandon, Ore. on March 12.