While attempting to qualify for the Carl Sandburg College men’s first golf team, Mark Dockstader said nerves got the best of him.
“Honestly, I was a little homesick at first,” he said. “When qualifying started, I didn’t play well and I had to be one of the top five golfers to be on the first team.”
Dockstader, a 2011 Moffat County High School graduate, didn’t make the cut, but still was able to play on Carl Sandburg’s second team.
The junior college in Galesburg, Ill., has 10 golfers on the team, with five on each of the first and second squads.
Despite struggling in the beginning, Dockstader said he settled in as the season progressed and he started playing in tournaments.
The first tournament of his collegiate career was one of the toughest — 36 consecutive holes in the Highland ‘36 Invite on Aug. 16 in Freeport, Ill.
“It was pretty cool to play 36 holes in one day, but it was brutal to have to walk 36 holes consecutively,” Dockstader said. “I shot 79 on the first round and 81 on the second, so I wasn’t satisfied, but it was my first college tournament and it was nerve racking.”
The Carl Sandburg first team won the Highland ‘36 Invite and the next tournament, the Carl Sandburg Classic on Sept. 1.
Dockstader said both teams competed against the top NJCAA and NCAA Division III teams.
With competition stiff on his own team, Dockstader said it pushed him all season.
“Our top five golfers are really good and they help bring out the best in me,” he said. “You have to bring everything you have to practice every day and really put in the work if you want to succeed.”
While practice consisted of playing a round of 18 holes each day, Dockstader said it was having a great coach and great teammates that helped him better his game.
“I have become a lot better at ball striking and working the ball with a draw or fade,” he said. “Even after practice, a lot of us players would stick around and just hit balls to improve on our own.”
Dockstader’s best tournament came during the Illinois Valley Classic on Sept. 16 and 17.
The first round was in LaSalle and the second in Oglesby.
On the first day, Dockstader shot a 78, but on the second the freshman recorded a 75 to help lead the Carl Sandburg second team to a second-place finish, eclipsing the first team.
“On the second day, I had five birdies, which is my most in one round,” he said. “I just had really good shots all day and it was one of my best putting rounds of the year.”
After his two years are over at Carl Sandburg, Dockstader said his plans are to transfer to a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference school to be closer to home and compete on a higher level.
But, he said his focus now is on next season and making the top five.
“I have been in the weight room and put on 15 pounds this year,” he said. “Working on the core strength helps me hit the ball further and have control of where it goes.
“We have 10 guys who can shoot under par, so I am going to have to work in practice every day to make the first team.”
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