Valdivia’s MIAA awards cap PSU golf season
Garett McCullough | Sports Editor
Pittsburg State senior golfer Garrett Fowler said he had high hopes coming into the MIAA Championships on April 16-17. Though the Gorillas were unable to take the title, they did get their share of highlights in the final tournament of the season.
The Gorilla golfers added to what could be considered the best season in history with a fifth place finish at the MIAA Championships, and a tie for fourth place in the regular season conference standings.
“This season is definitely at very top,” Fowler said. “We finished in a tie for fourth in the MIAA, which is the best finish Pitt has ever had.”
The fifth place finish, out of eight schools at the tournament, comes in a rebuilding year for the Gorillas. Their most consistent golfer, the only PSU golfer receiving All-MIAA honors, was freshman Justice Valdivia. Valdivia made the All-MIAA team and the All-MIAA freshman team.
“Coming into my freshman season here I didn’t really know what to expect,” Valdivia said. “I told myself that Freshman of the Year for the MIAA would be my main goal, and if I made the All-MIAA team too, then great. I proved to myself that hard work does pay off. This accomplishment now gives me a lot of confidence and something to build on moving forward.”
Central Missouri won the tournament, but that came as no surprise to anyone who followed MIAA golf this season. The Mules had a consistently dominant team all season, and they had five of the 10 All-MIAA selections, as well as the MIAA Golfer of the Year, Jared King. Central Missouri had three golfers in the top five spots for the tournament, beating Washburn by four strokes. Washburn and Central Missouri were the only teams in the running for first place after the first day, as they had a 15-stroke lead over the closest competitor.
That closest competitor after the first two rounds was the Gorillas, but a team round of 291 by Missouri Western on the final day catapulted the Griffons into third place. Fort Hays State was the other team to pass the Gorillas in the third round. The Tigers were one stroke behind Pitt at the end of the second round, but they snuck past the Gorillas in the third round to take fourth by one stroke.
Junior Cole Murrin finished seventh individually for the Gorillas and he was one round shy of a top-five finish. Murrin shot par in the first round and 1-over par in the third, but a 5-over par performance in the second round ended any chance of breaking into the top five. The second round was the Achilles heel for most of the Pitt State golfers over the weekend.
“Well, the team scores were higher for everyone in the second round,” Fowler said. “It was just an extremely long day and I’m sure everyone was just tired from that. Playing golf for 10 hours straight is rough.”
In fact, every Gorilla golfer except Valdivia had his worst round in the second round of the tournament.
The Gorillas were spread across the board individually, but two golfers managed to crack the top-15 for Pitt State. Murrin at seventh and sophomore Brett Dowell tied for 13th with three other golfers. Murrin finished the day 12 shots off of the lead while Dowell was 17 shots behind. Fowler, Valdivia and Bren Fisher finished 19th, 23rd and 33rd, respectively.
Fowler also did something every golfer dreams about. In his final day as a Pitt State golfer, Fowler basked in the glory of the coveted hole-in-one. Initially, he could only think of one word to describe that feeling: unbelievable.
“To end my college career on a note like that was just simply surreal,” Fowler said. “I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I had during that moment.”
The Gorillas may have had the best season in history, but they needed to win to advance to the Super-Regionals. The MIAA Championships marked the end of a season, and next season is already looking promising. Although the team is officially done, the individual selections for Regionals have not been made yet and Valdivia is ready if they call his name.
“Now that our conference play is over, I guess all I can do is wait to see if I qualify for Regionals,” Valdivia said. “Either way, I couldn’t have asked for a better freshman season here at Pitt State.”