Monthly Archives: August 2016

AMATEUR GOLF: Marshall native Matt Bennett plays in U.S. Amateur Championship

MARSHALL – When Marshall native Matt Bennett qualified for the US Amateur Championship, he was reassured that his game is good enough to play at the top level of amateur golf.

Though Bennett missed the cut with an 18-over-par 158, he hasn’t let it shake his confidence.

“Missing the cut obviously stunk, but I got to see where my game stood up to other players,” Bennett said. “I was lucky enough to play with the 17th ranked amateur in the world. He reassured me that I was good enough, but that I needed to work on a few areas of my game. And coming from such a good player, that was a really cool thing to hear.”

Harrison Endycott of Australia is the player Bennett is referring to. Bennett also shared the course with Nick Carlson from the University of Michigan, who advanced to the match play semifinals on Saturday.

The Amateur Championship is the biggest tournament of Bennett’s career so far, and he took a lot away from the experience both on and off the course. One of his favorite moments was the players banquet, where all 312 amateurs who qualified for the tournament were in attendance.

“Seeing 312 of the best amateurs in the world all in one room was special,” he said. “Many of the games’ future top players were there and hopefully I can be one of them.”

Whether it was getting access to players-only areas or getting a special parking pass, Bennett felt good about how the USGA treated the players.

“The USGA runs tournaments right. I felt like a real PGA pro out there last week. They really treated us like we were special and it was totally different from any other tournament I had ever been to.”

Now Bennett transitions back to his college career. He’s hoping to build on his success from the spring and his experience last week and use it to improve his game.

“I think this tournament will help as I enter my season by giving me an extra confidence boost. At every tournament I play in I feel as if I should be able to finish in the top five or even win if I’m on my ‘A’ game,” Bennett said. “Hopefully this fall season treats me as well as the spring season did and I can hopefully get a few more individual wins along with team wins as well.”

Mustangs underrated entering 2016 season

MARSHALL – Football is back.

At all levels, practice is commencing and the games will begin to count over the next month. Southwest Minnesota State University opens its season at home against the University of Minnesota Duluth on September 1, while Marshall High School starts out on the road the following night in Jordan.

Nine other area games line the opening weekend schedule of high school football under the lights.

At the college level, SMSU was recently picked to finish seventh in the 16-team Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

Personally, I feel that is too low.

I don’t buy that SMSU which tied for fourth a season ago will drop to seventh, two spots behind a team which it beat last season (Bemidji State University) and one spot behind a team with two fewer wins than SMSU last season (Northern State University).

The Mustangs are coming off an 8-3 record; their best season since joining NCAA Division II in 1995. The eight-win season also tied the 1990 team for the second-most wins in program history, only trailing the 1991 Mustangs that went 9-1.

Since Cory Sauter was named head coach in 2010, the key to the Mustangs’ offensive attack has been a strong passing game. That should be the case once again in 2016.

SMSU returns its signal caller in junior Blake Gimbel. In his first season as a starter, Gimbel led the NSIC by completing 66.4 percent of his passes, which set an SMSU single-season record.

Nearly a quarter of his 237 completions went to Nate Huot. Now a junior, Huot decided last November to focus solely on football over the offseason after being a two-sport athlete in football and basketball his first three years on campus. With two years of eligibility remaining, Huot is 10th in SMSU history in receiving touchdowns while sitting not far outside of the Top 15 in receptions and receiving yards.

In total, the Mustangs return their top seven receivers from a season ago.

In the backfield with Gimbel will be senior running back Ashanti Payne. Payne finished seventh in the NSIC with 771 rushing yards. His numbers came as a backup to Davontay Stevens, who was second in the conference with 1,066 yards. Those 237 carries will have to go somewhere, so look for Payne to have an even bigger season in 2016.

The key question for the offense will be along the offensive line. Of the four offensive starters the team lost to graduation, three of them anchored the offensive line.

The program saw a similar situation a few seasons ago, when it entered the 2014 season having to replace its entire starting line.

This time around, the Mustangs can lean on senior left tackle Grant Greenfield, who has started every game in the last two seasons.

The defense will have to replace five senior starters from 2015, including defensive end AJ Page. The DE Page finished his career third in school history in tackles for a loss (52), fourth in sacks (20.5) and ninth in tackles (276). He was named second team All-NSIC South in 2013 and 2015.

The linebacker group returns the services of senior Tyler Flud, who led the 2015 Mustangs with 85 tackles.

In the secondary, SMSU will look to replace Andrew McReynolds. McReynolds did not miss a game in his career and started 34 consecutive games over his last three seasons. He closed his career in the SMSU record book in interceptions, kick returns and punt returns.

Also gone from last year’s secondary are cornerback Donovan Woods and safety Jared Twedt.

The lone returning player in the defensive backfield is senior Caleb Leichtnam. In his first season for the Brown and Gold, Leichtnam tallied 77 tackles and led the team with four interceptions.

I may be wrong with my belief that SMSU will finish higher than seventh. That’s why they play the games, as the overused cliche goes.

Right or wrong, I’m going to enjoy these next few months. Football is back!