The University of Northern Iowa men’s golf team ended their season on a high note last week, finishing in fourth place at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. UNI was picked to finish seventh before the tournament by MVC head coaches.
“We were a lot better than what everybody picked us,” said Bermel. “I know we are one of the best teams in the conference, and we proved that.”
UNI played their best golf of the season during the first round of play, shooting a team score of 296, good for second place behind Wichita State. They weren’t able to keep up the pace, however, shooting 302 in the second and third round to fall behind Illinois State and Bradley.
“It’s always bittersweet when you’re so close, down one stroke with 20 holes to go,” Bermel said. “I’d love to be in that position next year, and see how we respond.”
The 2014-2015 version of the men’s golf team will feature some familiar faces, with four of the five competitors at the MVC Tournament returning, including junior Glenn Walls, who finished tied for 8th place at the conference tournament.
“Glenn finally got to the point where he realized how much talent he really has,” said Bermel. “When he plays within himself, he’s one of the top golfers in the conference.”
Along with Walls, freshman Dustin Atkinson, sophomore Jacob Bermel, and sophomore Kyle Driscoll will be returning for a team that suddenly has very high expectations for next season.
“The experience this year helped these guys so much,” Bermel said. “With Walls, Atkinson, and Driscoll finishing in the top 15, we will be expecting a lot from them next year.”
Although they will be returning four of their top performers, the Panthers do lose senior Ryan Horner, their most consistent player from this season. Horner led the team with a 73.8 stroke average in 26 rounds this season and finished tied for 20th (76-76-76) at the conference meet.
“Ryan Horner is one of those guys that you can always count on,” said Bermel. “He’s such a tremendous player and leaves a huge void for next season.”
As far as replacing Horner, Bermel does not yet know who will fill his spot, but he does know there will be many candidates.
“We have a couple of quality players that have the ability to play that role,” he said. “It’s time for some of our older guys to step up next year and take over that spot.”
Although Bermel isn't sure who will be in his starting lineup next season, he does know there will be more pressure to perform next season. As excitement is building around the men’s golf program, there is one main goal in mind for next year; ending Wichita State’s seven year championship run.
“We’re going to have an opportunity to take home the conference championship next year,” he said. “Everybody is tired of seeing the Shockers at the top, and we’ll have a chance to unseat them.”