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Sophomore Joel Pietila (right) took first place at the Kyle Ryman Memorial Tour­nament this weekend. It was the best per­for­mance by any Charger golfer since the program returned in 2014. (Photo: John Quint / Courtesy)

For the first time since the Hillsdale College golf team’s rein­statement in 2014, a Hillsdale golfer took first place in a tour­nament. Sophomore Joel Pietila tied for first at the Kyle Ryman Memorial Tour­nament on Oct. 2 and 3. The team fin­ished in sixth place out of 14 teams.

“It felt really good to be there,” Pietila said. “It’s the first time every part of my game has come together in a college tour­nament, and I had a dif­ferent mindset going in. I wanted to make birdies.”

The top five Chargers played at Mohawk Golf and Country Club in Tiffin, Ohio. In the two-day tour­nament, the team played 36 holes on Sat­urday and 18 on Sunday.

Pietila shot 69 and 72 — three under par and even par — on Sat­urday. On Sunday, he scored 73.

“I would undoubtedly say it was one of the biggest high­lights so far as a team,” sophomore Liam Purslowe said. “It proves that we have the ability, both as indi­viduals and as a team, to compete and win the tour­na­ments we play.”

Overall, Pietila shot 214, which put him in a three-way tie for first place. Pietila entered a playoff to decide the overall tour­nament winner.

“It’s moti­vating all of the guys to see Joel in that position, because that’s where we all want to be,” sophomore Peter Beneteau said.

Unfor­tu­nately, Pietila lost in the playoff to Ben Cook from Ferris State.

“Despite losing in the playoff, Joel is one of the guys that will always find pos­i­tives in what most most people would per­ceive as a neg­ative sit­u­ation,” Purslowe said. “That’s just who he is.”

Head Coach Nate Gilchrist said this win is a encour­agement for Pietila, the players, and looks good for the program that was rein­stated just two years ago.

“They are good enough to win golf tour­na­ments. They’re as a good as anybody that we play —  indi­vid­ually and as a team,” Gilchrist said. “They have to believe in them­selves a little more, and clean up some mental errors each round within a tour­nament.”

Another accom­plishment was that the team tied for the lowest score on Sunday, shooting 294. Purslowe placed 15th and shot 219, junior Joe Torres scored 324, Beneteau shot 232, and junior Logan Kaufman fin­ished at 233.

The team also com­peted in a junior varsity event in Spring­field, Illinois called the Dan Sal­isbury Memorial Col­le­giate. The team took seventh out of eight teams.

Freshmen George Roberts and Robert Zetwick, sopho­mores Andrew Grayson and Henry Hitt, and junior Steve Sartore played in the tour­nament. Roberts and Grayson both tied for eighth, shooting a four-over 148. Sartore fin­ished at 156, Zetwick at 161, and Hitt at 166.

“George and Andy both had a quality weekend and a great top 10 finish,” Gilchrist said.

On Oct. 10 and 11 the team will play in the the Midwest Regional hosted by the Uni­versity of Mis­souri-St. Louis. The tour­nament will be held at The Fox Run Golf Club in St. Louis, Mis­souri.

Pietila said this tour­nament is one of the biggest in the fall. He added that a good finish could help position the team to compete in the post­season next spring.

“My goal is to win as a team,” Gilchrist said. “We need to finish in the top five or better so we can get back inside the top 10 for the Super Regionals selection in the spring.”