By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Competition for Missouri Southern’s golf team extends beyond the Lions’ tournament schedule.
There are tight battles among the teammates to earn one of the five spots in the tournament lineup.
“I have seven who can really play,” Lions coach Mike Wheeler said. “Our qualifiers are very competitive. Last week when they were qualifying, there were not two words said. They were just grinding.”
The Lions will have home-course advantage when the Missouri Southern Invitational — the third of four MIAA golf points tournaments — starts today at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club.
A shotgun start at 10 a.m. is scheduled today, and there’s another shotgun start at 9 for Tuesday’s final round.
Just one point separates the top three teams after two points events last fall.
Perennial power Central Missouri leads with 20 points, and Washburn and Central Oklahoma are tied for second with 19. Washburn won the first conference meet last September at Crestwood Country Club in Pittsburg, and the Mules won the second meet hosted by Lindenwood.
Actually Lindenwood won its tournament, but it is not eligible to win the league title during its transition period from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
Northeastern State ranks fourth in the standings with 15 points, and deadlocked at 10 points are Missouri Southern, Pittsburg State, Fort Hays State and Nebraska-Kearney.
Just like the team race, the first two points tournaments produced two different medalists. Sam Schulte of Washburn won at Pittsburg State, beating Dillon Rust of Central Oklahoma in a playoff. Central Missouri’s Cy Moritz and Robby Hughey finished 1-2 at Lindenwood.
In three tournaments this spring, the Lions have placed fourth at Arkansas Tech, fifth at Branson Creek (hosted by Henderson State) and sixth at Arkansas-Fort Smith.
“We’ve been in some tournaments with good teams in it,” Wheeler said. “We are ranked 10th in our region our of 34 teams.”
Close competition in last week’s qualifying produced a different lineup for the Lions this week. Ryan Russell, Andy Hogenmiller, Ryan Buerk, Skyler Arbuckle and Adam Johnson.
Buerk, who leads the Lions with a 75.8 stroke average for 16 rounds, tied for 15th place at Pittsburg State and tied for 14th at Lindenwood.
Andrew Maier tied for 11th at Pittsburg State, but he and Sam Starkey, who have stroke averages of 78 for a combined 27 rounds this season, came up just short in last week’s qualifying.
“Andrew missed by one shot, and Starkey missed by two shots,” Wheeler said. “And that’s for 36 holes.”
Hogenmiller averages 78.2 for 15 rounds, and Russell 79.3 for four rounds. Arbuckle, a transfer from Central Missouri, and Johnson average 79.0 and 79.5, respectively.