Fifth-year head coach Brett Muller had high hopes for what his 2015-16 women’s golf program could achieve. With a big spring performance, those expectations can still be met. Led by junior Amy Ahlers, a two-time all-conference honoree, Concordia shot an average of under 345 over seven rounds during the fall of 2015.
In terms of conference standings, the Bulldogs sit exactly where they finished during the 2014-15 season: fifth. However, Concordia has lowered its GPAC average from last year by five strokes (351 compared to 356).
“The women’s team continues to improve,” Muller said. “They proved that in the fall by setting the one-day tournament record for lowest team score. We didn’t have our best days at the GPAC meets. Sitting fifth is not where we want to be. We feel like we can definitely make a move when we host the third qualifier at Highlands. We look to make a push for the top two of the conference and get to the national tournament. It’s definitely not out of the questions, but there’s work to be done.”
Ahlers continues to state her case as the top women’s golfer in program history. The native of Albion, Neb., broke a school individual one-round record with her one-under-par 71 at the Lila Frommelt Fall Classic back on Sept. 18. Nine days earlier Ahlers and company set a new school standard by shooting a team score of 335 at the College of Saint Mary Invite. The Bulldogs also turned in two other rounds below 340 (337 and 339) during the fall.
Thanks to the addition of College of Saint Mary to the GPAC this academic year, the conference now receives two automatic bids to the national tournament. In order to qualify for nationals, Concordia will have to make up the 14 strokes that separates it from Dakota Wesleyan and Nebraska Wesleyan, two teams that are tied for second place.
Dakota Wesleyan had gotten used to dominating the conference. This time around, national tournament bids are up for grabs in the second semester of play.
“On the women’s side the conference has gotten a lot deeper,” Muller said. “It used to be Dakota Wesleyan and then everybody else. Teams in the conference have caught up to Dakota Wesleyan and it’s much more competitive, especially at the top end. We’re in fifth right now and we’re one shot ahead of Midland. Basically the top six all have a chance to go to the national tournament. In years past the conference was pretty well decided by this point. That’s exciting for the conference as a whole.”
Beyond Ahlers, Concordia will lean upon the likes of junior Kayla Krueger (currently ninth in the GPAC), and sophomore Ashlen Pospisil. Muller has also identified sophomore Brenna Gnuse as someone who has made significant improvements. Plus, Muller believes Ahlers’ best golf is yet to come.
“It’s hard to believe, but Amy’s really improved even since last fall,” Muller said. “Going through (strength and conditioning) Coach (Todd) Berner’s offseason workouts has helped her add some distance. That’s something that’s held her back a little, especially with the driver and three-wood. She’s hitting the ball farther and because of that her scores have improved.”
Another factor that could chop scores down is the facility enhancements with the indoor hitting facility located on the southeast part of campus. It now contains an 18-by-8 foot putting green as well as a launch monitor. Said Muller, “That made our winter practices much more meaningful rather than just hitting the ball into the net. We can actually see what the ball’s doing and see how far it’s going. We can see the flight of the ball, whether it’s going right, left or straight.”
April 13 will be a historic day for the program as it is set to host a GPAC qualifier for the first time ever. The meet will take place at Highlands Golf Course, the new home of the Bulldogs, in Lincoln. “The women are very excited, especially with where we’re at in the standings,” Muller said. “We feel like we can make up some ground with the event being at Highlands.”
But first the spring season will get going at the Midland Invite in Fremont on Monday, April 4. Tee time is set for 11 a.m. View the full spring schedule HERE.