The Torch

At the conclusion of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship, Valpo men’s golf found itself in second place on the team leaderboard, while sophomore standout Anthony Delisanti took the crown as the MVC Championship individual medalist.

Delisanti’s individual victory is his second straight, as he claimed the crown last year as well. More impressively, his performance at this year’s tournament was even more dominant than the last. Delisanti finished the tournament at 13-under par, a mark that broke his own program record set this fall. His score of 200 across 54 holes outdid an MVC record (201) that has been standing since 1950.

After the tournament, Delisanti was announced as the MVC Golfer of the Year and an All-MVC selection, each for the second-straight year. 

“[Delisanti] really works hard in practice and prepares very effectively. He’s a very mature player, knows his strengths very well, knows his club distances and every tournament this spring he kept playing better. The whole team and him were playing their best and peaking at the right time of the year. I’m not surprised by the results as far as what he did. He did it last year and he knew what it would take to do it again so that was a good place for him to be,” said head coach David Gring.

Another Valpo golfer to earn honors at the tournament was senior Caleb VanArragon. VanArragon earned the MVC Elite 17 Award for a third straight year due to his performance on the course and in the classroom. He was also recognized with All-MVC honors for the fourth time in his career.

“[VanArragon] is the consummate student-athlete. In my 12 years of coaching, his body of work in the classroom and on the golf course is unmatched. He’s our captain this year and when you look at his scoring average and our record book, it is chock full of his name. He’s earned every part of that. [He has] an amazing work ethic again, both on the golf course and in the classroom, is wildly talented and just a tremendous individual. It's just been a gift coaching him and working with him and we’re excited that he’ll be back again next year for his fifth and final year,” Gring said.

As a group, the team posted a total score of 849, 13 strokes back from first place finisher Illinois State. Through 54 holes, Valpo had an impressively clean scorecard.

“I’m just really proud of the guys, the entire season, just the body of work. So much success and great tournaments, great results throughout the entire season and just a tremendous effort in the [MVC] Championship. I felt like the team was well-prepared, they were in a good place mentally and ready to compete for all three of the rounds despite some challenging practice round weather with snow falling and 20mph winds. It was a tremendous effort. It was our second best tournament finish of the entire year. I’m really proud of the fact that we had no double or triple-bogeys on the scorecard for any of our players in any of the rounds. That’s rare. The guys really managed the course well and played smart yet aggressive,” Gring said. “We had a good game plan in place for managing the course and playing through the tournament … one of the biggest takeaways is just the guys were well-prepared, they had prepared well for it so there was a lot of good execution throughout each one of the rounds.”

Another highlight on the scorecard was an eagle courtesy of fifth-year Yianni Kostouros. It took Kostouros just three strokes to find the bottom of the cup on a par-5 hole, marking the team’s lone eagle of the outing.

“First of all, we discussed the night before the final round that we needed to get off to a quick start on that par-5 and really try to jump out at Illinois State right away. We had three birdies and an eagle on that par-5 and [Kostouros] is the one that had the eagle. Leading by example and setting the pace at the beginning, [Kostouros] was leading that charge for us. He’s played for us the last two years as a transfer. He has tremendous leadership skills, tremendous athletic ability. He was steadily our number three player for those two years and filled that role really well for us, a wonderful body of work over two years and it’s evident in his scoring average and his results. [Kostouros] is the only guy that’s graduating this year and that we will not bring back next year and we will miss him,” Gring said.

Four of the team’s eight currently rostered golfers are underclassmen, and three of those underclassmen competed in the tournament. Freshman Owen Sander posted a score of 146 through two rounds of play. Gring is impressed with how Sander has improved over the course of his first collegiate season.

“[Sander] is another one of our players that had a good fall, but his spring season was even stronger. He averaged four shots per round better in the spring and then kept playing better golf as we were advancing through the spring season. He really stepped in and played very strong for us those last two rounds … I’m just really encouraged by that and [Sander] just played with a lot of confidence,” Gring said. “You look at guys, both [sophomore] Sam [Booth] and [Delisanti], playing in the event. So three of our six players were underclassmen participating in the conference championship. They earned those spots and were playing really well here as we finished our season. I also don’t want to take away from Grant Norman. He even showed up and drove three hours to the tournament, a fellow sophomore, just to watch his buddies and his teammates play. It’s great encouragement and he pushes the guys in practices also.”

With much of the team returning next year, including Delisanti and VanArragon, Gring is excited to see just how far his team can go. The players, already researching next year’s championship course, seem to be anxiously awaiting their next competition. 

“Two years in a row finishing second in the conference championship, [assistant] coach Ron [Gring] and I were talking about it, you know, is it really a chip on our shoulders or is it more of a boulder? So we’re super excited for next year and this tremendous core returning. We have two wonderful, very talented freshmen coming in. The future is very bright for us. The guys in the van on the way back were already looking at next year’s championship golf course on their phones, talking about it. Seriously, it’s like wow, they’re already doing a course review on that. They’re already salivating and excited for it,” David Gring said.

Delisanti will find out where he is headed for the NCAA Regional tournament during the NCAA Men’s Golf Selection Show on May 3 at noon. Having been there once before, it would be no shock to see Delisanti make a statement through his play.

“[Delisanti] has a wonderful opportunity in the [NCAA] Regional. He finished T-15 out of 80 players last year and was only four shots away from advancing to the NCAA finals. Again, he’s been there as an individual and has a really good idea of what it takes to advance to the finals. So, he and we will prepare effectively for that,” David Gring said.

Gring is holding out hope that his program will have not one, but two of its golfers competing in the NCAA Regional.

“I will say, we’re very hopeful that [VanArragon] will qualify as an at-large. His national ranking and his body of work is very much in the talk for that,” David Gring said. “We know that [Delisanti] will be there, we hope that [VanArragon] can get there and we’ll look forward to possibly two of them representing us at the Regional.”

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