Records fall as GVSU storm back from 11 down to capture GLIAC title

GVL/Bo Anderson Chris Cunningham sizes up a putt.

GVL/Bo Anderson Chris Cunningham sizes up a putt.

Zach Sepanik

Down 11 strokes and in a tie for fifth place heading into Tuesday’s final round of the GLIAC Conference Championships at Elyria Country Club in Ohio, the Grand Valley State University men’s golf team put together a group effort to miraculously win by nine and defend their title.

Junior Joel Siegel led that push with the lowest single round in school history, shooting a seven-under par, 65, to earn medalist honors and mark the second straight year a GVSU golfer has won the event.

“An eagle on No. 12 jump-started my day and I kind of realized that it could be a special day,” Siegel said. “I have to give credit to my teammates. It was crazy to come back by that much and win by the margin we did.”

Siegel opened the tournament Sunday with a round of 73. Then on day two, he began play on the back nine. Once he made the turn to No. 1 on Monday afternoon, there was no looking back for the eventual individual champion, as he carded a five-under, 31, on the front nine, for a 70 overall.

“You sure don’t see something like that coming,” said GVSU head coach Don Underwood. “Joel came off the back nine, turned to his second nine and just played great. I had a feeling that was one of those moments that you see somebody turn the corner.”

Throughout his final 27 holes, Siegel was 12-under par. His three-round total of 208 helped him claim the individual crown by seven strokes, and claim a spot on the postseason All-GLIAC First Team.

“In my time here, that was as good a 27-hole stretch as I have ever seen,” Underwood said.

It is the second-straight year a Laker has taken home the individual title; junior Chris Cunningham did so last season. This time around, Cunningham began play with an uncharacteristic 84 in the opening round, but strung together a solid second day, bouncing back with a 73. Only to be overshadowed by Siegel’s performance Tuesday, Cunningham then posted a 69 to finish at 226 for the tournament, in a tie for 15th on the leaderboard.

GVSU’s sixth GLIAC championship in men’s golf history was captured by a final round team score of 10-under par, 278, also a new school record. It was nine shots better than any round from the 12 teams competing over the three days.

Sophomore Jack Rider went 76, 70 over the first two days, but with only four players contributing to the overall team score in any given round, his final round 75 was not even used. It goes to show how well the Lakers played as a team on day three.

“It was unreal, one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of without a doubt,” Rider said. “I’m not really sure how it all happened. We knew we had to go pretty low and everybody had the right mindset of being patient and eventually the scores came.”

GVSU was greatly helped by freshmen Chris Beltzer and Tyler Polulak, who each had coming out parties Tuesday. After rounds of 82 and 78, Beltzer shot a 71 on day three. For Polulak, opening with an 80 and following that with a 79, his 73 cemented the Lakers’ impressive final round.

“Coming through on the final day of conferences to come back and win, I think it will do unbelievable work for their confidence,” Rider said.

The victory gives GVSU an automatic berth to the regional tournament in the spring, and wraps up their fall schedule.

“They are going to be able to draw on this for sure in the spring and beyond that,” Underwood said.
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