Lions golf team a diamond in the rough

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Nick Burnham | The Chart

Senior golfer Ryan Buerk is the leader of the team in his final season.

Nick Burnham, Sports Writer

Like most sports teams, the Missouri Southern Golf Team has an array of players with different skill levels, personalities and knowledge.

Ryan Buerk is one of the three seniors on the team this year, and he wants to go out with a bang.

Buerk came to Southern as a freshman in 2010 from Blue Springs High School, where he was a two-time All-Conference selection. He finished third at the District Championships as a senior and individually won the 2010 Missouri State Championship. Buerk did not compete during the 2011-2012 season because he attended Missouri State that year.

For the 2012-2013 season, Buerk decided to come back to Southern as a student and athlete again. He ended up being the Lions top golfer for the year; Buerk played in all 10 events for the Lions, averaging a score of 75.5. His best finish was at the Missouri Southern Invitational at Twin Hills Golf Club, where he tied for third overall, carding a two-round score of 145 (+1) with rounds of 72 and 73. The Lions finished that event in seventh place.

“Southern and my coach have been really good to me because of the fact they let me have a second chance,” Buerk said.

Buerk was also the Lions’ top finisher at the Missouri Western Region Invitational, where he finished tied for 11th overall out of 100 golfers. He shot a three-round score of 221 (+8) with rounds of 75, 67 and 79, helping the Lions finish fifth out of 20 teams.

“I’m really happy with the fact I chose to come back to Southern,” he said. “Being away from golf really made me realize how important it was for me and how much potential I had. I made a good swing change with a swing coach in the summer 2012 and everything has worked itself out from there.”

The 2013-2014 season was a full one. Buerk played in 10 of the Lions 11 events, with three top 10 finishes. He also shot a season low at the second round of the Texoma Championship, carding a 70 for the round and finishing the season with a 75.7 average (+4) in 26 rounds of play.

Coach Mike Wheeler is enthusiastic about Buerk’s upcoming season.

“Buerk is coming off a quality summer that saw him advance to the round of 16 at the Missouri Amateur,” he said.

Three of the first four tournaments this season were led by Buerk, with junior Ethan Hutcheson following close behind. Hutcheson has played with Buerk for two years now and has high hopes for his teammate.     

“He’s an ideal teammate and a good role model for the freshmen,” Hutcheson said. “He excels in the way he handles himself on the course and in the classroom. I believe he has a bright future in the game of golf because of his drive to be the best, his commitment to the game and his mental strength.” Hutcheson went on to say, “Being mentally strong can take you from being a good player to a great player, and that’s something I am trying to take from Buerk and something the freshmen and younger guys are trying to take from him. He’s a great leader for the team.”