By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern has something to prove during the regular season-ending MIAA Championships that begin today.
The Lions were disappointed by last week’s seventh-place showing in their invitational at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club. In addition, the tournament knocked the Lions out of the top 10 in the regional poll.
“Ten shots would have made a huge difference for us last week, but it didn’t happen,” Lions coach Mike Wheeler said. “We need to finish fourth to have any expectation of making the regional tournament. We need to make a good showing this week. We’re going to be done for the year if we don’t.”
Points are doubled for this week’s MIAA Championships if there are at least two rounds played.
Thirty-six holes are scheduled for today, starting with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m. Tee times will be assigned for Tuesday’s final 18 holes.
Central Oklahoma, the winner of last week’s MSSU Invitational, and Central Missouri are tied with 30 points apiece entering the final tournament. The Bronchos and Mules each have one first place, one second and one third in the three previous conference points events.
The Lions are in seventh place with 15 points, eight behind fourth-place Northeastern State.
It’s also a tight battle for top honors in the individual standings. Trey Siegel of Washburn is the leader with 35 points, followed by Central Oklahoma teammates Dillon Rust with 34 and Trevor Stafford with 32. Stafford, with a 6-under-par 30 on the back nine in the final round, shot 66 and won the MSSU title at 4-under-par 140, four shots ahead of Seigel.
Missouri Southern junior Ryan Buerk and Nebraska-Kearney’s Kris Koelzer tied for third at 145. Buerk had rounds of 72-73 and was 2-under for the tournament before making a bogey and double-bogey during the last three holes.
Buerk jumped into eighth place in the standings with 14.667 points. In last fall’s two points tournaments, he finished in a tie for 15th place at Pittsburg State and tie for 14th at Lindenwood. He leads the Lions with a 75.6 stroke average for 20 rounds, and last week was his third top-10 finish in four tournaments this spring.
“I’m very excited about (this) week,” Buerk said after last Tuesday’s round. “I’m very happy with my swing right now. My short game needs a little touching up. I’m excited how I’m hitting it right now going into (this) week.”
Also playing for the Lions this week are Andy Hogenmiller (78.2 average), Ryan Russell (776.4), Andrew Maier (78.0) and Ben Starkey (77.8). Starkey tied for sixth in the Missouri Intercollegiate in Columbia last fall, and Russell tied for seventh two weeks ago at Branson Creek.