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Linn-Mar's Drew Brandel, Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Nile Happel share medalist honors

Lions extend lead in MVC divisional team race

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn-Mar’s Drew Brandel had a little extra incentive to post a good round Monday.

He had been out of the Lions’ top six for a little more than a week, according to Coach Bill Hoefle. The Linn-Mar junior certainly made a case that he belongs in the lineup.

Brandel shared medalist honors with Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Nile Happel and helped the Lions win the team race at the Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Divisional meet at St. Andrews Golf Course.

Brandel and Happel posted a 3-over 75 on a day only three golfers broke 80.

“To put a low score up there, I think it proves I can be in the lineup,” said Brandel, who was listed as the Lions’ No. 6 golfer. “I’m happy with it.”

Hoefle admitted he did not expect Brandel to be the team leader. Teammates Jack Recker and Ben Greif went 1-2 at the MVC Super Meet to start the season and Andrew Wood had taken over the top spot in the lineup. Being out of competition provided motivation.

“Drew’s been playing well,” Hoefle said. “I think it kind of got to him and he wanted to prove that he should be.”

With tree lines all over the course, accurate tee shots were important. The layout played right into Brandel’s hands, suiting his strengths well.

“This is a perfect course for him,” Hoefle said. “He hits the ball straight and has a good short game.

“That’s why our other guys struggled.”

Brandel was consistent and managed the course well. If the occasional blip occurred, he refocused and limited the damage, avoiding a double-bogey the entire round.

“I hit the ball well,” Brandel said. “I didn’t make too many mistakes really. When I did, I came back and made it count to get par or up-and-down.”

Brandel saw his best holes came on some of the longer ones. He was able to reach the green in two and came away under par.

“Both of the par-5s I got on for eagle,” Brandel said. “I didn’t make the eagle putts but I birdied both of them.”

Happel, an honorable mention all-MVC Valley player last season, looked for a little redemption. The J-Hawk senior was 19th at the Super Meet to open the season. He made up some ground on the division leaders.

This time, instead of worrying about the performance of his competition, Happel was dialed in on his own effort.

“It was pretty good,” Happel said. “I played really bad in the first one. It was nice to play the underdog role and try to make a charge back. I’ve got one more to do it.”

The greens gave golfers fits, but Happel was comfortable. He said he was in a groove, judging the proper speed, and his putter came through at opportune times.

“I like to putt out here,” said Happel, who carded one birdie. “I made some good par putts when I needed.”

Linn-Mar entered the meet — the second of three rounds to determine divisional team champs and all-conference players — with a six-stroke lead over host Cedar Rapids Xavier. The Lions added to it, scoring 318 and edging the Saints by two.

Wood and Greif each shot 80, while Zach Armstrong added 83.

Xavier was led by junior Brad Karpick. He finished third overall with 78. Ryan Keating and Nick Recker shot 80 apiece and Matt Neumeyer rounded out the scoring with 82.

The MVC Mississippi will close divisional play Monday, Sept. 26 at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City.

“Our guys held in there good enough,” Hoefle said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a good chance at the last divisional.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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