Men’s Golf receives coveted Bandon Dunes Championship invite

Men’s Golf has received its first invite to the Bandon Dunes Championship in March of 2022. 

Head Coach Derrick Brown said participating at the event is highly regarded among golfers around the country, so much so that the 2023 roster is full already. He said being able to take the team to compete and create a lifelong memory is going to be wonderful.

“I think it's an awesome opportunity for the guys,” Brown said. “One, the competition that will be there will be very high, to be able to play against some of the top teams in the country, but also Bandon Dunes resort [is] one of, if not the best resort in the country.”

Brown said teams from all over the country will be competing in the event that is sponsored each year by the University of Idaho. He said the invite came after he had reached out to a University of Idaho coach who is running the event about SIUE’s program.

“I had a previous relationship with the Idaho coach, so I was able to reach out about us and our program and we've been competitive,” Brown said. “But each coach is different on how they go about their invite list, but most of it revolves around your team's competitiveness and [the] relationship between coaches.”

Head Coach David Nuhn of the University of Idaho’s Vandals said there is no definitive method for choosing teams but creating opportunities for students is part of it.

“It's just about making sure … the field is reasonable from top to bottom, but then also you allow some teams that wouldn't have other opportunities to go to these higher-level kinds of events that have more notoriety to be able to participate in them,” Nuhn said. “I think for me as the host coach that's really important, getting some teams that maybe people don't recognize on paper much, opportunities for their kids to have awesome experiences.”

Fifth-year senior Presley Mackelburg from Reno, Nevada, said being able to share this opportunity of getting to compete at Bandon Dunes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“You can focus on competition and get into a competitive mindset while playing one of the better courses in the U.S. so for all of us it's just an opportunity to get better, play some very good collegiate teams and just get that experience under our belt,” Mackelburg said. “For me as a senior, we've gone [to] a lot of different places and loved all the opportunities that I've gotten to experience but this one will definitely probably be at the top, so I’m excited for it.”

Redshirt sophomore Luke Ludwig from Effingham, Illinois, said that golfing the top-rated Bandon Dunes course is the pinnacle for a golfer. 

“You don't really see a link style golf course like that in America, it's something you normally only see in Europe, Great Britain [or] Scotland,” Ludwig said. “Where it's located in Oregon is normally pretty cold normally and then its winds are blowing at least 15 upwards of 30 [miles per hour] at points. It's going be a different style of golf.”

Nuhn said links-style courses are different than the manicured courses that some students are used to mainly because it is by the ocean.

“It has a lot to do with the …  lack of trees. They use the contours of the wide-open space, they are exposed to the elements. They tend to be a little bit more rugged,” Nuhn said. “There [are] a lot of humps and bumps and mobiles, it's not just pristine, flat [or] manicured.”

Nuhn said Bandon Dunes brings a diverse collection of athletes that will allow the golfers to push themselves.

“Being able to compete against a vast array of teams from different conferences really does allow you to get a barometer on kind of where you stand, whether it be nationally or regionally,” Nuhn said.

Mackelburg said competing among some of the top 100 collegiate teams in the country will give the team the chance to up their rankings and show teams from other conferences that SIUE can compete with them.

“If we show up, play well, and prove ourselves, [there will] definitely be future invites for Coach [Brown] which would be very exciting for future players that are coming here,” Mackelburg said. “It'll allow for a lot more people to see our program and know what we are about. Maybe bring some future recruits here as well.”

Ludwig said golf is a very in-the-moment sport and if he starts thinking ahead it will interfere with the way he plays now.

“I don't think a lot of people realize it because golf is, I’d argue, 95 percent mental, there's not a whole lot of physical,” Ludwig said. “There is obviously talent and physicality in it but it's the person who's mentally strongest is going to play the best and at Bandon Dunes when it's windy and cold you’ve got to be mentally prepared and mentally tough to play well out there.”

Brown said they have already begun receiving donations toward the $20 thousand goal the team has set in their fundraiser, “Tee to Green Club,” to help pay the costs of entry and travel. Brown said the team will also stay on the property right next to the ocean and the opportunities will enhance the team’s experience there.

“One of the coolest opportunities is that before and after the tournament we get to play any of the other courses at Bandon Dunes that time permits,” Brown said. “There [are] five courses out there, and they're all ranked inside the top 100 in the country.”

Mackelburg said the team appreciates and is thankful to Brown for getting the team an amazing opportunity to compete at this level.

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