SILVIS — A persistent rain and temperatures in the upper 40s greeted the Grand View men’s golf team Friday when it arrived at TPC Deere Run for the final day of the NAIA National Championships.
“Our kind of weather,’’ 14th-year coach Chris Winkel said. “The guys were laughing about it with me before we started, talking about how we play in this stuff all the time. That told me they were ready for the challenge.’’
The Vikings trailed Cardinal Stritch by 13 strokes heading into the final round of the 72-hole tournament, a deficit that disappeared midway through the round.
Grand View positioned itself to its first-ever national championship in the sport with its work over its first holes of the day, needing six holes to tie the team race before turning that initial 13-stroke deficit into a four-stroke lead before making the turn onto the back nine.
The margin stuck.
The Vikings were the only team in the field to break 300 in the tournament’s soggy finale, carding an 11-over 295 for the day and a 1,197 score for the tournament to finish five strokes in front of runner-up Cardinal Stritch and eight ahead of third-place Texas Wesleyan.
Brothers Myles and Mitch Pfiingsten led Grand View’s charge.
Myles Pfingsten, a senior from Fairmont, Minnesota, followed a 4-under 67 on Thursday by completing his collegiate career by shooting the only round under par recorded by anybody in the field Friday.
He finished with a 1-under 70 to move from 12th to third in the medalist chase while his brother, Mitch, a junior, carded a 71 to climb from 19th to sixth in the final individual standings.
“The conditions were far from ideal, so it was pretty much business as usual for us,’’ Myles Pfingsten said. “This makes all the practicing in crappy weather worthwhile. National champions as a senior, that’s pretty awesome.’’
Rowan Lester, a Texas Wesleyan freshman who is a member of the Ireland National Team, led medalist play in the tourney from start to finish, shooting a 3-over 74 on Friday.
He finished with a 3-over 287 which left him three strokes in front of runner-up Ben Kendrick of the University of the Cumberlands for individual honors.
“The first two rounds, I played my game and felt good about it, but the last two days my putting carried me,’’ said Lester, whose resume includes winning the British Junior Open. “Today, it let me finish it out. I hit a couple of decent putts on nine and 10 that gave me confidence.’’
And when he sank one from 30 feet on the 14th hole to go up by five strokes, Lester felt good about his chances of becoming a national champion.
“There was good competition here,’’ he said. “The weather tested us all, so it feels good to come out on top.’’
From a windy opening day followed by heat, rain and late-May cold, the elements were a week-long factor St. Ambrose coach Jeff Griebel said likely evened the tournament playing field.
“This was a little different than what players from southern programs are used to. For Grand View and Cardinal Stritch, this isn’t that unusual,’’ Griebel said, referencing the 1-2 finish of Iowa and Wisconsin programs which entered the tourney ranked 18th and 19th in the final regular-season coaches poll.
Winkel agreed, and also praised his team’s focus as it rallied to win over its final 18 holes of the season.
“The general line of thought is conditions like this can make it hard to make up a deficit. I’ve always felt if you handle them, it can make it easy to make up a deficit. I feel like that’s what we did,'' Winkel said. "We hit a lot of good shots that gave us a chance. The attitude, the approach was right where it needed to be. They went out and won this tournament.’’
St. Ambrose golfers Paul Burd and Andrew Tichler, both teeing off in an early-morning downpour, finished with rounds of 83 and 88 Friday to finish 43rd and 88th individually.