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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.”