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Mastodon senior golfer grabs US Amateur spot

– Qualifying for the U.S. Amateur was a dream come true for Bluffton’s Drew Imel, and even though he has a few weeks to get ready for the biggest tournament of life, he already has some great stories.

Shooting 69 and 73, for a 2-over 142 total, in back-to-back rounds Tuesday at the Warren Course in South Bend was quite the test of golf.

“It was 104 or 103 degrees – hotter than the dickens,” said Imel, a senior at IPFW. “And I knew after I shot that first round of 69 that it was going to come down to who could handle the heat the best.”

At least Imel had the support of his caddie, old, What’s His Name.

Imel, 22, couldn’t even remember who was toting his bag. It was supposed to be his brother, Nick, but he couldn’t make the trip at the last minute. So another golfer Imel met in South Bend said he knew a guy who would carry the clubs. Turns out the caddy’s name was Brian Ulrich – Imel had to scan through his phone contacts to jog his memory – and Ulrich didn’t talk much but proved to be good luck.

Imel tied for the second-best score, grabbing one of three qualification spots for the U.S. Amateur on Aug. 13-19 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo.

Imel, who was the runner-up in the 2011 City Tournament, averaged 74.3 strokes per round during the Mastodons’ spring season.

“(Qualifying) is a really big deal for me,” he said.” I’ve been kind of moving around with swing coaches and settled down with Quinn Griffing in Fort Wayne, and we’ve been working on my swing. I actually went to a belly putter about a year and a half ago. But I was never really fitted for one. Quinn said, ‘We need to get you fitted,’ and my game just confidence-wise has been boosted. Going into the qualifying round, I was pretty confident.”

IPFW coach Billy King is excited about the ramifications for Drew and the Mastodons’ program.

“This could be the best thing to happen to our program, and will springboard us to bigger and greater things. It’s a great time to be part of IPFW men’s golf,” King said.

But Imel just wants to not get too amped up. There will be two days of stroke play among 312 golfers before the top 64 players battle in match play.

“Quinn and I were kind of talking about a few things with my swing and about staying calmed down and focused on the few swing tweaks. And I need to keep rolling the ball well on the greens,” Imel said. “I’ve just got to be focused and keep working hard. When you go down there, you have to just believe you are supposed to be there and you are ready. The mental game is just as important as the physical game.”