CLINTON — The last time the Northern Iowa men’s golf team won a meet championship, Clinton’s Eric Sikkema, now a redshirt junior at the school, was beginning his seventh-grade year.
“It’s not surprising that we haven’t won for a while, but we play a lot of good competition,” Sikkema said. “I’m just glad we got the team win overall.”
Sikkema is hoping his Northern Iowa golf teammates can land a second straight victory at the Missouri Valley Championships this upcoming week at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
Sikkema, a Prince of Peace alumnus, helped the Panthers come back from five strokes down to land their first win in program history since 2006 at the Oral Roberts Invitational on April 14 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
The Clinton native led the Panthers after the first round with a 5-over 77. He also scored a 77 in the second round, good for a 25th-place finish, his best of the season.
His best round of the season came in the third round of the Jackrabbit Spring Invitational with a 70. Sikkema has averaged 77 shots a round and has found the 70s in 17 of 23 rounds.
“All we really wanted to do was play our best, and see what happens,” Sikkema said during a telephone interview Thursday night. “We really wanted to play well heading into the Missouri Valley Championships and create some good momentum.”
Even though this month’s win was a rare feat for the Panthers, Sikkema feels his team is as competitive as the likes of Missouri State or Wichita State.
“All we want to do is play well, and if we can do that, anything can happen,” he said. “Now that we know how well we can play, we know what we are capable of. We can definitely take the momentum that we have into the conference championships and see what we can do. I feel like there are a lot of teams who can walk away from the title, and it’ll be a pretty close race.”
UNI finished fourth in last year’s MVC Championships at TPC Deere Run, which is an improvement to a ninth-place finish at the 2013 MVC Championship.
Sikkema won the 2011 Big East Conference title and was a first-team all-stater that year as an Irish senior golfer.
“You’re playing against better competition and playing in front of a lot more people,” Sikkema said of the differences between high school and college. “Golfers one through five are all very good. The courses are harder, the greens are a lot faster, but at the end of the day, it’s still golf.”
Sikkema will graduate on May 9 with a degree in business finance.
Herald Assistant Sports Editor Zach James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.