SIOUX CITY | To nobody’s surprise, Corey Matthey has adjusted quite well to college golf.
The Morningside College freshman from Sergeant Bluff was Great Plains Athletic Conference medalist in his first collegiate season and will compete in the 2017 NAIA Men’s Golf National Championship beginning Tuesday at TPC Deer Run in Silvis, Illinois.
Northwestern College won the GPAC team championship for the third straight season and fifth time in the last six years and is part of the national tournament field.
Matthey, if you recall, became the youngest winner in the history of the Men’s City Tournament the summer after his junior year at Sergeant Bluff-Luton. He won three tournaments last summer en route to Sioux City Journal Siouxland Player of the Year honors.
A model of consistency for the Mustangs, Matthey had a 74.6 stroke average during the fall season and led the team with a 74.6 average this spring. He won the GPAC title and subsequent Player of the Year honors with a 72-hole score of 18-over-par 302 in the fall and spring qualifier tournaments, which was three strokes better than his closest competitors.
“Every tournament matters, but that one (GPAC) is kind of the major tournament of all of them so to win that one is extremely exciting,” Matthey said. “I’m just glad I could perform when I really needed to.
“The talent level in our conference is great so it’s tough to win. I only won once and it was the GPAC. You have to play pretty well to win. It’s different than high school for sure, as a team we really never competed very much at the big level. But now it’s a lot of team and individual as well.”
Matthey is one of 11 individual qualifiers in the 156-player, 29-team field at TPC Deer Run, site of the PGA Tour John Deere Classic. The tournament field will be cut to the top 17 teams and 40 individuals after 54 holes.
Matthey, the third golfer in Morningside history to qualify for the NAIA Championships as an individual, will attempt to become the first Mustang to survive the 54-hole cut.
His first look at Deer Run was Sunday when he played a practice round with Morningside Coach Todd Sapp and he played another on Monday.
“I looked at last year’s scores and saw that 3-under won it so that score is in mind,” Matthey said. “It’s a pro course so it’s going to be tough. I feel I just need to go out there and play my best and not be intimidated by these great players from around the country.”
Northwestern’s team is certainly familiar with the layout, but hasn’t fared well in its previous trips.
“We’re excited to get another crack at Deer Run,” Northwestern Coach Aaron Aberson said. “We’ve got quite a bit of experience playing there but outside of Colton Kooima, we really haven’t played all that well.
“We do feel like we’ve got a great game plan for the course but we’ve lacked a bit on execution. I am really confident that we can change that, though. The guys are really gaining confidence and the last few weeks of practice have been really beneficial.”
Northwestern finished nine shots ahead of Morningside after the final round of the GPAC qualifier at Woodland Hills in Eagle, Nebraska.
“The competition in the GPAC was fierce this year and we expect much of the same in the next few years,” Aberson said. “Morningside and Dakota Wesleyan had two very talented teams so we knew we would have to play our best to hold them off.”
Northwestern’s Justin Kraft, Evan Schuler and Austin Reitz were each first team All-GPAC. Kraft, a junior from Lake View, Iowa, and the GPAC player of the year as a freshman, led the Red Raiders with a 74.6 scoring average and tied for fifth in the GPAC.
“Justin has been a steady player now for three years,” Aberson said. “He’s the model of consistency and has really improved his strength this season which has helped his ball striking immensely. I’m really looking for him to anchor our lineup and play well this week.”
Schuler, a junior from Atlantic, Iowa, tied for seventh in the GPAC and ranked second on the team with a 74.9 average.
“Evan has a unique golf game but he learned long ago that it doesn’t always matter what it looks like as long as you get the ball in the hole,” Aberson said. “He’s a fiery competitor with a great short game.”
Reitz, a sophomore from Onawa, Iowa, was the third Red Raider to finish in the top 10 at conference, tying for 10th, and averaged 76.4 strokes per 18-hole round.
“Austin is playing his first year of varsity and has shown how quickly athletes can improve in golf,” Aberson said. “He came in pretty raw last year but has really improved his fundamentals and become one of our best ball strikers.”
Colton Kooima, a junior from Sioux Falls, tied for 28th in last year’s national meet, the second-highest finish ever for a Northwestern player. Kooima joined the team in the spring after an outstanding basketball season, averaging 75.3 strokes.
Orange City, Iowa, product Ryan Christy is the lone senior on the Red Raider team, having averaged 77.1 with four top 10 finishes this season.
Aberson was named GPAC coach of the year for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
Top-ranked Oklahoma City is the defending NAIA team champion and returns two first-team All-Americans. Texas Wesleyan’s David Ravetto, a sophomore from Paris, France, is returning medalist.