After seeing its three-year reign atop the conference come to an end last season, the Gustavus women’s golf team is set to make a run at the conference title this season’s MIAC Championships being held at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids this weekend.
The MIAC women will play the North and East courses at Bunker Hills each day, with the men playing the East and West courses. Pairings and tee times for Saturday’s opening round are determined by last year’s finish at the MIAC Championships, and Sunday and Monday’s pairings and tee times will be dictated by the previous day’s scores.
The Gusties will look to challenge last year’s champion St. Olaf, who won its first MIAC Championship after firing a conference record 939 over the 54 hole event. Gustavus came in second last season with a 961, while Saint Benedict placed third of with 984.
The race for a league championship looks to be a battle between Gustavus, Carleton, St. Olaf and St. Thomas – all of which are averaging team scores below the 330 mark. The Gusties lead the way with a 327.7 average, while Carleton (328.5), St. Olaf (329.8), and St. Thomas (329.8) are all chomping at the bit.
Head Coach Scott Moe’s weekend lineup will feature Kayleigh Dittes (Sr., Eden Prairie, Minn.), Sam Falk (So., Glenwood, Minn.), Liz Strom (So., Fargo, N.D.), Holly Karkela (So., Perham, Minn.), and Olivia Tusa (Fy., Hermantown, Minn.).
Leading the Gusties into this year’s conference meet is coach Moe’s lone senior Kayleigh Dittes. Thanks to her steady and consistent play throughout Gustavus’ fall campaign, Dittes has recorded four finishes inside the top 10. The senior leads the team with a 79.6 stroke average through ten rounds, ranking her fourth in the MIAC. Dittes shot a 248 (+32) at the MIAC Championships last season to place 16th overall.
Sam Falk and Liz Strom will also be called upon to carry the load as Gustavus’ other two returners from last season’s second place team. Falk, the 2011-12 MIAC Co-Rookie of the Year, came in third place last season after shooting a 231 (+15), while Strom shot a 244 (+28) to place 12th. Both sophomores have three top 10 finishes this season, as Falk ranks second on the team with an 82.2 average (8th/MIAC) and Strom ranks third on the squad with an 82.6 average (9th/MIAC).
Gustie newcomers Holly Karkela and Olivia Tusa will also look to make an impact at the first conference meet of their careers. Karkela carries an 85.1 average, while Tusa holds an 85.3 average and is coming off her best performance of the season at the Gustavus Fall Invite where she finished sixth with a 162.
As usual, each team will play one 18-hole round each day, with the champion and individual places decided by the cumulative scores after all 54 holes are complete. Saturday and Sunday will both begin with tee times starting at 11:20 a.m., and Monday’s final round will start at 9 a.m. with a brief awards ceremony to conclude the tournament. The top individual will receive medalist honors, while the top 10 individuals – including ties – will be honored as All-Conference performers.
The MIAC Web site will offer live scoring updates throughout the tournament, along with complete results and recaps following each day of action with photos and videos to highlight the event as well. Stay tuned to the 2012 MIAC Golf Championship Home Page, as well as the MIAC’s social media networks on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube throughout the weekend to stay connected to all the action at Bunker Hills.
Gustavus enters the weekend ranked ninth in the nation according to the latest Golf World/WGCA Division III College Women’s Coaches’ Poll released on Oct. 8.