Expectations high for DWU, despite loss of Tigers' top golferThere’s a glaring hole in the women’s golf team at Dakota Wesleyan University. Four-time Great Plains Athletic Conference golfer of the year Dani Bellet had her final run with the Tigers this spring and has now graduated.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
There’s a glaring hole in the women’s golf team at Dakota Wesleyan University.
Four-time Great Plains Athletic Conference golfer of the year Dani Bellet had her final run with the Tigers this spring and has now graduated.
That won’t be an excuse for head coach Adam Anderson. He believes his team has a great shot to continue its dominance in the conference, despite having an incoming freshman take Bellet’s spot at No. 1 for DWU.
“It’s really hard to replace someone like Dani,” Anderson said of the national runner-up in 2011. “But with that being said, it still is a team sport as far as qualifying for nationals. I feel like we have as many, if not more, returners than the other conference teams.
“By that token, I think we’ll do pretty well again.”
Lauren Fitts, a freshman from Brookings, is the team’s No. 1 player heading into the season, which starts Tuesday at the GPAC Qualifier No. 1 in Orange City, Iowa.
Fitts finished in the top 20 at the state tournament each year since her freshman season, including sixth- and eighth-place finishes in her junior and senior seasons.
“She’s ready for the challenge,” Anderson said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if she won conference as a freshman, based on what I’ve seen from her and what I know she’s capable of.”
Junior Chelsea Burback is taking over as the team’s captain and is at the No. 2 spot. She’s been a part of the Tigers’ national-tournament team each of the past two years and was an all-conference selection each year.
Jenna Winckler, a sophomore from Lake Andes, will be the team’s No. 3 player.
As a freshman last year, Winckler was third overall in the conference, earned all-conference honors and helped the team at the national tournament.
Sophomores Natalie Turner and Talia Peters — a Wagner native — round out the top five spots.
Turner played on varsity last year, and “made several improvements on her game over the summer,” Anderson said.
Peters was on the roster’s top five most of the season last year and helped the team to the national tournament.
The DWU women have won the GPAC nine of the past 10 years, including seven times under Anderson. The Tigers, who are gunning for their 10th straight national-tournament berth, are a long-hitting team and should be considered one of the top teams in the GPAC this season, Anderson said. He wasn’t sure which teams would be battling for the top few spots. He said Morningside and Northwestern would have likely been contenders, but both teams lost key players from last year’s squads.
Tuesday’s meet will be the Tigers’ first action of the season.
“There have been a few tournaments in the conference, but there haven’t been any that we’ve chosen to go to ... because I felt our time and efforts could be better focused on gearing up for GPAC No. 1 that we’re going to play,” Anderson said. “
The Dakota Wesleyan men’s golf team is looking to rebound from a sixth-place GPAC finish last season.
“We had a bit of a down year last year,” Anderson said. “Other than my second year I was here when we got 11th in the conference, which was dead last, it was the worst finish we’ve had in the conference in the last five or six years.”
The DWU men haven’t been as dominant as the women, but the men won the GPAC in 2008, were runners-up in 2009 and 2010 and placed third in 2011.
This year, two-time all-GPAC player Travis Johnson is the team’s senior captain.
Johnson finished fifth individually in the conference last year and is a two-time all-GPAC honoree.
“He provides a lot of leadership for us,” Anderson said.
Freshman Tyler Burr, of Belle Fourche, is at the No. 2 spot, while a pair of juniors hold down the No. 3 and 4 spots.
At No. 3 is Austin Hieb, who has been on the top five for the Tigers each of the past two years. The No. 4 player is Freeman native Josh Korn, an honorable mention all-GPAC selection last season.
Anthony Husher, a freshman from Winner, rounds out the top five.
“Basically, we’re bringing back the same strength of team,” Anderson said. “We’ve got some freshmen beating out some upperclassmen. I know that our team, overall, is better than last year.”
The men’s team starts play Saturday at a two-day tournament hosted by Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Tigers’ first GPAC Qualifier is Sept. 13 in Orange City, Iowa.
This season, DWU is hosting the Palace City Classic for the eighth straight year. It’s a two-day tournament that sees play on both of Mitchell’s golf courses, Lakeview and Wild Oak. The event, which has women’s and men’s team play in separate tournaments, starts Sept. 21.