The history of golf at St. John's should rightfully have a preliminary section entitled "The Birth and Death of a Golf Course"-a strange title to be sure, for after all a golf course is simply a piece of landscape adjusted to provide pleasure for human beings who tramp across meadows, ford water hazards, get into traps and out of them, all in pursuit of a white pellet that finally drops with a plunk into a hole in a bit of turf called a green. But the St. John's golf course! That's a different story-the only school-owned golf course in the state.
The coming birth of the St. John's golf course was announced more or less as a rumor in the April 2, 1925 issue of the Record to the effect that St. John's might be planning to build a golf course: "The little white pellets may often be seen flying around the lower campus pursued by enthusiasts of the great old game. Who knows but that St. John's may put in a golf course in the near future!"
A year later, April 29, 1926, the sportswriter noted that some progress had already been made for a golf course. The site of the new course was the area north of the lower campus. "Every afternoon a cavalcade of students with caddies, bags and camp followers wend their way to the hills. The present course is in an ideal location and with some improvements can easily be the best desired."
A year later, 1927, a writer reports hearing loud detonations of dynamite explosions on the course, blasting out stones and stumps that obstructed the fairways. "The work on the greens will be finished after this dangerous work has been accomplished, and then St. John's will be one of the very, very few but proud possessors of a school golf course" (Record, April 28, 1927).
Progress on the newly created course was leisurely. In the fall of 1927 the tees and greens were plotted out, as suggested by golf pro Archie Houle, brother of Coach Bill Houle, and early in the spring of 1928 the Golf Club began making preparations to schedule matches with the other MIAC colleges.They were certain to make a good showing, they said, because they had in their midst two top-flight golfers: "Prospects were never brighter for a formidable golf team. St. John's is fortunate in having two men who probably have no peer in the conference: Walter Moynihan and Joe Ryan." Moynihan, it continues, was the city champion of Sauk Centre, and for the past two years. champion of the Central Minnesota Golf Association. Joe Ryan, Brainerd's contribution to golf at St. John's, was city champion of his home town. Besides these two, there was Fred Warner of Minneapolis (Record, May 26, 1928).
It is apparent from the above that the golf enthusiasts were planning to field a team for conference competition as soon as the greens were completed. On April 26, 1928, the Record reported that "the fairways are clear of stumps and stones and all that remains to be done is the completion of the greens. When they are finished St. John's will have the most picturesque course in this part of the state" (Record, April 26, 1928).
Considering the positive statements of 1928, it seems strange that for the next two years there were no references in the Record or the Sagatagan to conference competition. There was no lack of activity on the campus, however. In 1931the Golf Club inserted in the Record a list of some forty members on whom was placed the responsibility of keeping the greens in good order and the sand surfaces smooth and firm for putting. The impression is that the Golf Club was a smooth working organization, with golfers competing against one another rather than seeking opponents outside the St. John's circle. We read in the Record for May 8, 1930, page 7: "The golf course is constantly being attended by the students. This year, more than ever, it is well patronized-a real jaunt for golfers, up and down hills."
Among the members of the Golf Club mentioned in the Record during the years 1925-1931 were the following: George Clifford '28, Walter Moynihan '28, Joe Ryan '29, Ray Hite '31, Myron Wiest '31, Roman Niedzielski '31, Rader Hilbe '33, Othmar Janski '31, Fred Hughes '31, Ira Bradford '31, Edward Hennessy '32, Loren Wolter '34, Urban Frey (later Fr. Frederic, O.S.B.) '33, John Devney '33, Bob Burkhard '34, Wilson Wright '34, Jerome Kramer '33 and Walter Weisgram '33.
In 1931 the club sponsored an 18-hole intramural tournament in which Lorry Wolter (star center on St. John's first football championship team) won a cup as prize for first place. Other prizes were awarded, among them a golf sweater with matching socks donated by the Town Toggery clothing store of St. Cloud. The prevailing note of the few golf articles in the Record of the time is that the students were delighted with the course and intent on making St. John's a sort of golfer's paradise.
But in all this enthusiasm the faculty was left out of the picture entirely. It was known that the college president, Abbot Alcuin Deutsch, O.S.B., who had no objection to golf for the students, was opposed to the sport for members of the community. He considered golf a game played almost exclusively by the wealthy, leisured classes of people and opposed to the vow of poverty. Besides, he thought it a waste of time that could be more profitably spent at almost anything else proper in a monastic environment.
It happened, however, that three of the school administrators of the St. John's educational enterprise, like the students, had caught the golf fever, and during the summer months indulged in their new diversion. It might be added that it was necessary to keep their golf activities safe from the abbot's attention, or from the attention of anyone else, for that matter. However, the young director of athletics, George Durenberger, was a companion with them in some of their golf adventures and still loves to tell about the golfing escapades of the three Benedictine administrators, Frs. Mark Braun (later Abbot Mark), Walter Reger and Theodore Krebsbach, all three deans of the various departments of the college and prep school. He writes:
"The clubhouse for the three monks during these years consisted of a long pile of cordwood stacked close to the first tee. The Reverend Fathers tucked their clubs in the woodpile between the cordwood sticks where they usually escaped the rain. One of Fr. Mark's more serious problems was interference from the porter's office. On many occasions he would have to replace his few clubs in the wood pile and return to his office to convince some parents that they should enroll their boy at St. John's.
"Fr. Mark was also a serious reader of the magazines on golf techniques and would often regale his confreres with 'suggestions' for improving their game. But to no avail! Nor did Fr. Mark improve his own game to any appreciable extent.
"The highlight of the monks' adventures took place one balmy summer evening when they were all gathered on the summer porch with the community and the abbot. That evening, out of the generosity of his heart, Bro. Ambrose, a famous community gagster, approached Fr. Mark and gave him a handful of golf balls he had found on the golf course. I never did find out what happened after that because a few of the monks continued to play."
Fr. Mark later said, "It was an acutely embarrassing moment!" He also had a faint suspicion that the episode was one of Bro. Ambrose's practical jokes, for which he had a unique propensity. Rumor has it that the carefree hours spent on the golf course by Fr. Pat O'Neill, O.S.B., a blithe spirit from St. Bernard's Abbey in Alabama, was the reason for the eventual (and inevitable) ban on faculty golf.
- 1931-1933 -
Around 1931 the Great Depression began to make its effects felt in all colleges in some way or another. At St. John's its effects were especially experienced in a decline of interest in golf. Moreover, drawbacks to the St. John's golf course became more apparent as the golfers became better acquainted with the new courses that were springing up in the smaller towns throughout the state.
George Durenberger has vividly described the drawbacks: the first was the fact that the course had been superimposed on the St. John's cow pasture. When the herd began to be increased in size in the early '30s, a handicap that at first was little more than a bothersome hazard suddenly became a major problem. Big George describes the situation:
"One of our first major problems was that the cows somehow developed a liking for standing on the greens; cow droppings, plus hoof marks, made putting somewhat difficult. Someone came up with the idea of installing fence posts around the greens with a single strand of barbed wire. This kept the cows off the greens, but it still posed a new problem for the golfers approaching the green. Special ground rules had to be worked out.
"Another problem was the vast accumulation of leaves from the nearby hardwood trees, especially in spring and fall. As someone said at the time, 'A golfer spent one hour golfing and two hours looking for the ball among the leaves.' "
A third problem, a serious one, was the close proximity of the fairways to one another. On several of them a slice or hook could easily cross an adjoining fairway, thus providing a dangerous physical hazard. Not a few players had been struck with golf balls over a season. Finally, when the Depression had touched bottom in 1933 and student interest in golf had reached a deep low, the administration decided to abandon the course as a safety measure.
- 1934 -
The loss of the golf course was felt eventually by the St. John's student body, some of whom gave up the sport. There still remained a few enthusiasts in 1934, however, who banded into a team of four to represent St. John's in the conference. St. John's finished in last place, with John Bateman, '34, leading the team as captain. Bateman finished in sixth place. Other members of the team were John Dale ('34), Lane Scofield ('36) and Wilson Wright ('34).
- 1935 -
Things picked up in 1935 under the leadership of George Kuklinski, '38, who was a better than average college golfer. In the conference tournament of 1935 he finished in fifth place with a score of 156 for the eighteen holes. Other point makers were Lane Scofield (173), Joseph Kelso (174) and Robert Phillips (187).
Incidentally, George Kuklinski, an ardent golfer, suffered the loss of an eye in 1934 when hit by a golf ball on the St. Cloud Country Club links-an accident that reconciled the St. John's students for the loss of their much appreciated but hazardous golf course.
Little or no notice was taken of the golf teams of 1936 and 1937 in either the Record or the Sagatagan, though the Sagatagan ran a feature picture of Kuklinski in the 1936 issue. Teams might have been organized in a loose way, though there is no evidence of their having competed in the MIAC in 1937.
- 1938 -
But golf took a turn for the better in 1938 when William "Bill" Browne made a spirited effort to put St. John's back on "golfdom's map." He organized a ten-man team made up of Robert Burns ('38), Don Hollenhorst ('39), Randall Murphy ('41), Thomas Rabideau ('43), George Wegener ('41), Dewayne Wohlleb ('39) and Charles Maher. No reports of the season were made beyond the statement that the team had practiced hard on the abandoned golf course.
- 1939 -
In his second year Coach Browne had several new names to ad d to his team roster: Richard Maertz ('42), a well-qualified golfer, Edwin Lamb ('39), Dennis Booker ('40), Dan Hoolihan ('42). The 1940 team apparently made only a mediocre showing, for the Sagagatan, referring back to 1939, reported: "The Johnnie diggers didn't do much in the Minnesota conference but dig a lot of divots."
Bill Browne's 1940 golfers did not make a much better showing. Just before the conference meet, sports editor Homer "Rod" Hurd wrote a forecast of Bill's linksters: "Forecast? Johnnies to finish outa the chips. Prospects?-About like the weather, which ain't been so good."
Key members of the 1940 golf squad were Bill Browne '40, George Wegener '41, Dennis Booker '40, Rick Maertz '42, James Lamm '41,Eugene Bolger '41, William Hart '43, Henry "Hank" Strobel '43 and Robert Hughes '43.
- 1941 -
Highlight of the 1941 season was the first victory in golf over St. Cloud T.C. by a score of 7U-4U. But it was followed immediately by a 10-2 drubbing at the hands of Gustavus Adolphus. In this meet with Gustavus, held on the St. Cloud Country Club course, Henry "Hank" Strobel scored a hole-in-one on the ninth hole. The feat stirred up memories in the mind of George Wegener of the hole-in-one shot he made on the country club course of his native home town, Portal, North Dakota. "At the tender age of fourteen," he recalled, he made a hole-in-one on the tenth green. It was the first international hole-inone in history. He explained that Portal is located along the line that separates Canada from the United States. The tenth tee-off of the golf course happens to be on the Canada side of the line and the green on the United States side. Therefore, his hole-in-one was the first international hole-in-one and made on the only international golf course in the world.
Actually, the feat was published in Ripley's "Believe It or Not" column, and Wegener was the recipient of several trophies and citations. Incidentally, George was one of the top golfers in St. John's early golf history.
- 1942-'43-'47-'51 -
There are no records of golfing activities at St. John's for the years 1942-43, just after the opening of World War II. Following the war, in 1947, a feeble attempt was made to revive the sport at St. John's with the announcement of a projected match with St. Cloud T.C. that apparently was never played; however, in 1951, five years later, the Record announced the resumption of golf in a way that would seem to indicate a real attempt had been made in 1947: "It has been five years since a golf team has teed off in collegiate circles, and although there are no satisfactory local facilities, the students have expressed a desire to take to the links again" (Record, April 12, 1951). The '51 team was granted a $100 allowance by the athletic department. Team members were Larry Chouinard '51, Jerry Engleson '52, James Van Hercke '51, John "Jack" Litchy '52, James Lilly '53 and Paul Vogel '51.
The luck of the 1951 team varied. St. John's took first place in a triangular meet with St. Cloud and Mankato, but shortly afterwards they were swamped by Gustavus. In the conference the team finished in seventh place, with Paul Vogel St. John's highest scorer.
- 1952-1953 -
No scores were reported for the 1952 and 1953 seasons. A team made up of James Lilly, Bob Hintgen, Jerry Engleson and Joseph Welle was organized in 1952 but none for 1953. Though there is no record of a team in 1954, columnist Dom St. Peter in his "Heavenly Daze" column gave expression to a rumor that plans were brewing to build a links on the picnic grounds across the Watab. "Well, it looks like a golf course may be on the way to becoming a reality here at St. John's. . . . We've heard a great deal of talk about a Johnny golf course in the past two years and are happy to see it on the way to become a reality" (Record, May 7, 1954).
- 1955 -
On April 1, 1955, a long article appeared in the Record proclaiming the near advent of a golf course in the picnic area across the Watab. "St. John's will have its first golf course since 1933 within the next year or two, if the present project proves to be popular enough to be carried to completion. . . . For the past three months small crews of frustrated lumberjacks, faculty, collegians and a smattering of preps have been seen carrying axes, saws and other paraphernalia to the pasture area west of the Watab."
Among them were Frs. Conrad Diekmann and Dunstan Tucker, George Durenberger and one student in particular, Dean Hall. Prior to the preparations recounted above, consultations had been held with Joe Ryan '31, Dr. George Clifford '28, and the golf pro of the Alexandria golf course for advice in establishing the locations of tees and greens, and all seemed to be progressing regularly. But then suddenly all work stopped. Athletic director George Durenberger has told the story many times in the past:
"Work progressed slowly but surely. The workmen brought along their chain saws and opened up a fairway through the woods, though much of the area was clear. My son David remembers the Durenberger family out on the course evenings picking up stones, brush, etc.
"Then came the letters. One said that God had been good to St. John's for ninety-nine years and we must not do anything to offend him. Another wrote that golf was a game only for the wealthy people, so we would be doing our students an injustice, since most of them are poor, by creating an interest and skills for a game economically beyond their means. Another objected to the picnic area: 'If we permit this to happen, the grounds will be surrounded by women in short skirts.'
"Some of this rubbed off on Abbot Baldwin, as I was instructed to stop the work on the course for the sake of peace, and we did."
The athletic director's disappointment was softened by the construction of a second course in St. Cloud and new courses in Albany and Cold Spring, so the demand for golf courses was lessened.
It is well to add that times and attitudes inevita bly change. Abbot John Eidenschink, Fr. Alfred Deutsch, and Fr. Leroy Kremer of the St. John's Seminary manage a game or so once a week in the summer with Bill Blattner and Al Siebenand on the Albany course.
The student golfers of 1956-57 seem to have accepted the cancellation of the golf course plans on the principle that the ways of monks are often strange and inscrutable. But finally Jim Cesnik, sports editor of the Record for 1956, queried: "While on the subject of spring sports, one might do well to ask whatever became of the nine-hole golf course hailed in the April 1 Record last year, heralding a golf comeback after 20 years of decline" (Record, April 13, 1956). He received no reply. An ambitious golfer by the name of William "Bill" Weber in 1957 assembled a team made up of "Mick" Mullen, Thomas Clifford, Paul Brown and freshmen George Peterson, Timothy Ondahl, Donald Carpenter and Stanley Kucera. It was a reasonably good team, for the Jays took sixth place in the conference in a field of fourteen. Freshman George Peterson won sixth place in individual competition.
- 1958 -
Colonel William Lorimer III of the local ROTC military department was appointed golf coach with George Peterson as his team captain for the 1958 season. It was a solid, substantial team made up of Captain Peterson, Bill Weber, Tim Ondahl, Gary Pendy and freshmen Mike Skwira, Richard Wadden and Ben Ori. The team met opponents on a fairly even basis, breaking the season at about a .500 average.
- 1959 -
It was around this time that it became more and more evident that the reason for the lack of student support for the golf team, and especially the mediocre showings of the Jays in conference meets, was due to insufficient training on the golf courses. It was during the coaching years of Colonel Lorimer that the athletic director, George Durenberger, made arrangements for the free admission of the golf team to the St. Cloud Country Club links. Whether this arrangement was directly responsible for the improvement of the Jays is impossible to say, but the fact is that the golfers for the years 1957-60 were considerably improved in their match play. Of the fifteen candidates from whom to make selections for the conference, Colonel Lorimer selected Captain George Peterson '60, Cedric Waggoner '62, Mike Skwira '61, Lyle Banta '62 and Bill Black '61.
- 1960 -
Coach Lorimer's 1960 golf team was one of the strongest in St. John's golf history up to that time. Team captain George Peterson was the top golfer in the conference and the medalist in the 1960 MIAC tourney (see Sagatagan, 1961). During the regular season the team came up with a perfect record and defeated every team in the conference at least once. Unfortunately, the conference meet was held too late for the results to be published in the Record. It is known from the official list of championships, however, that Duluth won the 1960 golf title.
Members of the team were the following: George Peterson (captain), Michael Skwira, Eugene Schuster, Cedric Waggoner, Donald Charpentier and David Matuska.
- 1961 -
Colonel Lorimer retired from the army in 1960 and was succeeded by Major John. Leonard, also a member of the St. John's ROTC staff were two strong lettermen, Captain Michael Skwira and Eugene Schuster, the latter a star performer on the 1960 team. Also on the list of candidates were Frank and Thomas Jelinek, John Borgmann and Kenneth Preimesberger. Among an array of freshmen were Denis Duffy and Jay Dunham.
The first meeting of the year was lost to Hamline 12-3, with freshman Duffy starring. In a quadrangular meet held at St. Mary's, St. John's defeated Gustavus 9-6, but lost to the Maryans 6-9. The John nies continued to do well in MIAC competition and out-shot Concordia at Alexandria, then defeated Augsburg at Keller, St. Paul, with Skwira and Schuster tied at 77 for the medalist position. On May 9 the Johnnies clobbered St. Thomas on the St. Cloud course by a score of 13 ½-4. Schuster was low man with a 76, followed by Skwira with 77.
The 1962 Sagatagan, reviewing the prospects for the 1962 golf team reported, "The 1961 team finished high in the conference last year."
In his second year as head of the golfing fraternity, Coach John Leonard maintained a cheerful outlook on the prospects for his team. Captain Skwira was lost to the squad by graduation, but the combination of golf star Eugene Schuster, Ken Preimesberger, Denis Duffy, Jay Dunham and Tom Fritz formed a solid nucleus on which to build.
Despite the good prognostications, the Johnnies finished in sixth place. The five-man squad fired a high 625 strokes, each member playing 27 holes. The title was won by Duluth with 576 strokes.
The members of the team that played in the conference tournament were Denis Duffy '64, Tom Fritz '64, Eugene Schuster '63, John Reichert '65 and G. Joseph Liemandt '65.
- 1963 -
The golf seasons 1963 and 1964 do not rate high in the history of St. John's sports, at least according to the amount of information that is available for record keeping. The new coach, Captain David Bear of the military ROTC staff, was confident that his 1963 golf team, though young, had the potential to eventually win the conference title. The basis for his conviction was, first of all, the ability of his team captain Eugene Schuster, both as player and fiery leader, to stir up the confidence of his teammates. The problem that afflicted St. John's teams, he wrote, was the lack of consistency, a tendency to be easily discouraged when making a faulty shot and failing to shake it off. He lamented also the lack of a campus following for golf, the one sports activity that is more a lifetime game than any other sport at St. John's.
It is probable that his message found a hearing, for after two early setbacks through losses to St. Thomas and Concordia, the next two matches were a complete reversal in form, a convincing romp over Gustavus by a score of 14-1. This was followed by a defeat of Macalester in an unexpected 8-7 victory over the favorite for the championship. With the record of two wins and two losses, the team was determined to out-score Hamline and be set for a determined try for the champion ship. Unfortunately, the above was the last report on the 1963 season. Duluth, however, was the 1963 title holder.
- 1964 -
The 1964 golf season commenced with an Easter Week jaunt down south to Excelsior Springs of Missouri. The team expected ideal golfing weather, but the temperature dropped to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. It rained, and the ice caked three-fourths of an inch on umbrellas (sic). By the end of the trip the team had participated in six tournaments but invariably ran into rainy and cold weather that limited or nullified practice periods (Record, April 17, 1964).
The first meet at home was a triangular affair at the St. Cloud links with St. Thomas and St. Mary's. The Johnnies tied St. Thomas 7)4-7)4 but were bombed by St. Mary's 11-4.
The 1964 Johnnies participated in two large tournaments, the first at Bemidji, from which St. John's emerged in eleventh place in a field of sixteen schools. Later, in another invitational between Minnesota and North and South Dakota colleges, St. John's placed seventh in a fourteen-college tourney. Makeup of the 1964 squad was as follows: John Schneeweis ('66), Thomas Lynn ('67), John Ponterio ('66), Mike Williams ('67), Jon Schilling ('66) and team captain Robert Neis ('65). In addition to those mentioned were Joe Liemandt and Ken Utecht.
The only record of the 1965 season available is the following excerpt from the Record, May 26, 1965: "St. John's golf team completed a moderately successful season this spring despite frequent rains. Seniors Robert Neis ('65) and Joe Liemandt ('65), juniors John Ponterio ('66), Jon Schilling and John Schneeweis, sophomores Mike Williams and freshman Pat Antrim were the main contributors as the Johnnies finished high in the MIAC open held at Minneapolis' expansive Hazeltine course on May 15-16." The 1965 conference champion was Macalester.
- 1966 -
The golf team of 1966 was similar to that of 1965-a group of linksters who both practiced and played off-campus to the utter indifference of the rest of the St. John's student body. Again, as in the previous Year, the only information about the team is contained in a single article of the Record, May 13, 1966:
"The rather inconspicuous sport of golf at St. John's finds this year's team enjoying an exceptional year on the MIAC tour. Coached by Jon Schilling, the team is looking forward to its first conference championship. "Finding adequate facilities in the early part of the season proved to be difficult, and it took a couple of early defeats by Macalester and Hamline to get the rust out. The Jays then tied an exceptionally strong St. Cloud team and followed that with crushing defeats of Concordia and Augsburg at St. Cloud on May 4.
"Playing on this year's team are seniors John Ponterio, Roger Hipwell and Jon Schilling, junior Michael Williams, sophomores Pat Antrim, Dennis Bianconi and Joseph Lamothe, and freshmen John Bonifaci, Thomas Malerich and Tom Kozney.
"The Johnnies will play in the Honeywell Invitational and the Cougar Invitational at Alexandria, as well as the remaining conference matches before heading down to Hazeltine for the MIAC championship tournament tomorrow."
Macalester took the title, the third in a series of conference championships that started in 1964 and ended in 1968.
In 1967 St. John's continued for another year the policy of having a student-coach take charge of the team. The new coach, senior Michael Williams, took a firm hold of the assignment, fully convinced that the chief fault during the past few years had been inconsistency. He immediately made a move to get in a period of daily practice to remedy the team's situation.
In the early part of the season St. John's defeated Gustavus and St. Mary's but lost to St. Thomas and Augsburg. At this particular point Coach Williams blamed the weather for the inconsistency, although, when asked for an opinion, he replied, "We may have been bothered at times by lack of practice, but overall our only drawback was our instability, our inability to come in with consistent showings. There's no doubt about it, we can beat anybody. Whether we do or not is another matter" (Record, May 9, 1967).
St. John's finished the season in eighth place, one point ahead of Gustavus, the cellar holder. Macalester again won first place. The St. John's team was made up of the following members: Michael Williams ('67), Patrick Antrim ('68), Dennis Bianconi ('68),Timothy Baumgartner ('70), John Bonifaci ('69), Mark Harrigan ('70).
- 1968 -
Terry Haws, the new wrestling coach and football assistant, took over the golf team in 1968, the year following the eighth place finish of the St. John's Jays. Terry adhered closely to the analysis of former coach Williams and his effort to overcome the team's failings-that the trouble was not entirely the lack of talent but of consistency from meet to meet. It had become almost a trademark of the golfing Jays that individual players did well in one meet and failed miserably in the next.
Terry's system was to observe carefully the performance of each member of the squad, gradually advancing the best scorers from meet to meet as on an ascending ladder. The result was that talented freshmen Joe Nett, Craig Schneider and Anthony "Tony" Strupeck, as they climbed the ladder, gradually began to replace the letter winners of the previous year. Moreover, the freshmen made excellent replacements. Antrim, a holdover from 1967, said, "Weather permitting and if we jell together, nobody could touch us."
The Jays toppled Hamline 11-4 and Augsburg 12-2, led by two freshmen: Joe Nett with a 77 score and Craig Schneider with a 78. The Jays traveled the next day to St. Mary's and stopped them 12-3, as also title contender Macalester 11-4.
Hard luck halted the brilliant early spurt of the youthful Jays, however, in the form of injuries to John Bonifaci and Mark Harrigan, and the Jays dropped the next four meets, with a resulting conference meet record of four wins and four losses.
In the MIAC tournament the St. John's golfers jumped from eighth place to fourth, with John Bonifaci and freshman Tony Strupeck leading the team, followed closely by Joe Nett, Craig Schneider and Dennis Bianconi.
Terry Haws, despite his disappointment with the team for not doing better, was satisfied that his system had worked. The future looked bright.
- 1969 -
The high hopes of Terry Haws at the end of his first season as golf coach were amply justified. The 1969 team won the MIAC championship, the first and only golf championship in St. John's history. With Pat Antrim the only 1968 team member graduating, the coach had a line-up of tried golfers to start the season: Mark Harrigan, Joe Nett, Tony Strupeck, Jack Herb, with freshmen Joseph Parise and Paul Welle to challenge them for first place positions on the team. The motivation provided by the freshmen was demonstrated when freshman Joe Parise, who emerged from the conflict as the conference champion for 1969, stirred up the Jays to a startling comeback at a time when it seemed that the team might finish among the also-rans of the conference.
Unfortunately, the Record failed to report the entire season's play, despite an elaborate program of six invitational's and only two dual meets. In the 1970 preview for the coming season we read a brief account of the final phase of the MIAC tournament: "In last year's conference meet the Johnnies stormed from ten points behind in a rain and hail storm at Edina's Braemar Country Club to capture the first title in school history. Joe Parise, the conference individual champion and medalist, was the hero of the day by coming from behind with two 76 scores for the first and second rounds. In scoring his 76 finish he broke out of a three-way tie to secure medalist honors" (Record, April 15, 1970).
"Golfers Playing Unfamiliar Role" was the headline of the 1970 golf preview: "The St. John's golf squad is in an unfamiliar position they are the defending champions and are rated a strong favorite to repeat" (Record, April 15, 1970).
Heading the list of returnees for the 1970 season was sophomore Joe Parise who in 1969 had broken a three-way tie to take medalist honors in the conference. Others less noteworthy were senior captain Mark Harrigan and seniors Craig Schneider and Jack Herb; juniors Joe Nett, Tony Strupeck and Paul Welle; sophomore Robert Brick and three promising freshmen-James Kruzich, Kim Culp and Patrick McKeon.
The prediction of Terry Haws was that the race would be between St. John's, Gustavus and St. Thomas, with Duluth coming in as a darkhorse possibility. The weather was particularly adverse to the Jays, however, ". . . because of inclement weather the entire Jay schedule prior to the conference championship was cancelled, and so the conference meet was their first competitive event. The team finished in a very disappointing seventh place in the MIAC" (Record, March 26, 1971)
Joe Parise in his pre-season column in the Record was guardedly optimistic in his predictions for 1971. "St. John's," he commented, "is definitely a potential contender, but whether the Johnnies can sharpen up and show some consistency remains to be seen" (Record, March 26, 1971). Later, in an interview conducted by the excellent commentator Ernie Bedor, Parise again was guarded in speaking of his own chances to win the individual title: "It all depends on how hot you get and how everyone else does. The team, I know, will be a lot better. . . . Joe Nett has been playing his best golf and could win the championship" (ibid). It might be added that he and three others had gone to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the Easter season to practice so as not to be caught unprepared before the conference meet.
The 1972 Sagatagan published the outcome of the Jays' golf season as follows: first place in the St. Cloud dual meet, third place in the Cobber-Dragon Invitational, second place in the MIAC, second place in the NAIA District 13 play-offs. It was one of the good St. John's years in golf.
Around 1972 or slightly earlier, a radical change had taken place in the reporting of golf activities. With the new academic calendar and the shortening of the spring season from June to May 20 or so, the golf season was now limited to ten days at the most. As a result, careful records of the spring sports were not kept as important. For the 1972 golf season, by a lucky break, the newspaper clippings of the St. Paul Pioneer Press are available.
St. John's finished in second place in the conference, losing first place to Macalester by a meager eight points: Macalester's total points for the meet of 791 to the 799 of St. John's. Joe Parise won seventh place with a total score of 155, Kim Culp and James Kruzich tied for tenth place at 159 points, Pat McKeon took seventeenth place, and Douglas Dero and John Possin were in 36th and 37th places respectively. The solid second place finish ranked the Jays among the leaders in the conference.
The untimely death of Terry Haws brought football coach John Gagliardi to the head coaching position of golf in 1973. The turn-out of candidates for the team was enthusiastic with 36 contestants for the ten-man squad the coach would select. Coach Gagliardi singled out five veterans as most likely winners of the choice spots on the team: Kim Culp, Douglas Dero, John Possin, James Brewi and Pat McKeon. When the MIAC championships came around, however, the team was represented by three new men, David Koebele, Rick Sheldon and Tom Bromen, along with Culp and Brewi.
After the first round of the conference golf tourney St. John's title chances looked bleak. The new members, through lack of experience, found it difficult to cope with what they called the "choppy unpredictable greens." Brewi, in an interview with a Record sportswriter, acknowledged that the conference "had a lot of good experienced teams." According to a later report, the Jays were headed for sixth place in the conference standings.
Since neither the school paper nor the golf coach kept statistical data and squad rosters for the years 1974-78, Coach Patrick Haws was able to provide only the following information about these years:
1) The MIAC standing of St. John's for the period; 2) the name of the team captain for each year; 3) the names of the individual competitors who represented St. John's in the conference championship matches.
1974-MIAC place: third. Captain: Jim Brewi. Team members: Dave Krebs, Scott Hogan, Doug Spanton.
1975-MIAC place: sixth. Captain: Jim Brewi. Team members: Dave Koebele, Doug Dero, Phil Murphy.
1976-MIAC place: third. Captain: none. Team members: Mike Jennings, Mark Hall, John Dorgan.
1977-MIAC place: fourth. Captain: Mike Jennings. Team members: Mark Hall, Jim Lehman, Robley Evans.
1978-MIAC place: fourth. Captain: Mike Jennings. Team members: Jim Lehman, Terry Putz.