By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
Golfer Jack Dudeck, of The Master’s University, capped off his best collegiate season yet after finishing second in the NAIA championships.
Dudeck completed the championship tied with Jakob Stavang Stubhaug from Keiser University.
The two played a tie-breaker hole with a slight advantage to Stubhaug, who had just finished the hole. Keiser’s top man prevailed but Dudeck still held his head high after his mother rushed onto the course to congratulate him on an incredible season.
It may not have been the ending he wanted, but the Mustangs’ level earned him the chance to finish his season playing with some of the best golfers in the country.
The senior was recently named an All-American following his fantastic season, but in his eyes, the best is yet to come.
“It was a great experience for me, a great tournament,” said Dudeck. “I am definitely excited to go back and get the job done next time.”
Master’s golf head Jacob Hicks praised his star player’s strong finish as well as his unphased demeanor.
“He’s just been so consistent the entire year,” said Hicks. “The word I gave him was unphased, no matter what came his way. He stayed poised and confident. He embodied that really well.”
Dudeck stood out during the national tournament with 21 birdies. The Mustang also tied for second in scoring on par-five (-8) and par-four (-2) holes.
The senior birdied on his par-five 10th hole to capture the first-place spot in the tournament with an impressive -10 score. The All-American was unaware of his competitors struggling out of the gate in the final round. He and Hicks agreed he would not check other scorecards and focus only on his game.
The Mustang got into a rough spot in the final stretch with a 12-foot fan standing in his way of the hole. Dudeck somehow managed a clean shot, landing just feet off the hole.
In the playoff hole, Stavang would get off to a better start, teeing off about 60 yards further than Dudeck, who hit water on the next swing.
Dudeck bounced back and was just a stroke away from becoming the second Mustang to win the NAIA Championship. The Master’s Chad Wensel was the last to win the title back in 2004.
Dudeck graduated from West Ranch High School and promptly moved to North Dakota with his family. The Wildcat alumnus spends most of his school breaks in the Midwest with his family but chose to stay local for his education and athletics.
West Ranch head coach Jeff Holen was impressed with his former player’s performance, especially since he’s only been playing for less than eight years.
“He’s a very athletic kid and he just took off with it,” said Holen. “He brought a good athletic mentality to the game, which transferred to the golf arena. Win-win for us and Master’s.”
Dudeck was a former baseball player who found a passion for golf in his sophomore year at West Ranch. Holen immediately took notice to how quickly his young star picked up the game.
“He was a sponge. He wanted to absorb everything and anything about the game,” said Holen.
Dudeck has made a name for himself in the collegiate golf world for some time now. He won his first tournament as a sophomore and already has two All-Conference selections with eyes on a third next year. Dudeck thinks he had his first selection in his grasp as a sophomore before the COVID-19 shutdown.
The Mustang was also able to get an auto-bid into the national championship last year on the same course at TPC Deere Run, a stop on the PGA Tour. Seeing the course not only helped him for this year but also helped him motivate the team.
“After that, I thought I definitely wanted to try to come back here next year,” said Dudeck. “I really wanted to focus on that and wanted the team to do well. Wanted to help the guys on my team and help grow their games.”
Dudeck had his first chance to defend a title this year heading into the Masters Spring Invite. The former Wildcat won the tournament last season, giving him a new experience entering the 2022 contest.
The All-American played well for two days but struggled down the stretch. However, he locked in and knocked in a clutch birdie to win the tournament by a stroke at 137 (-7). His demeanor, however, would rarely change.
“The greatest thing about him, it’s 100% smiles,” said Holen. “You can never tell if he’s playing bad or good.”
Dudeck once again had a chance to defend his title at the Golden State Athletic Conference Championships. After running away with the title last year with a five-stroke lead, the Mustang became the first player ever to go back-to-back at the GSAC championship, winning by three strokes.
“Coming into spring, he wasn’t playing at the level I knew he was capable of,” said Hicks. “He came back and finished the season unbelievably.”
Even with all of these accolades, one of Dudeck’s favorite memories is still playing in his home tournaments and having all of his teammates there cheering each other on, on the final hole.
The Mustang will have a different NAIA championship course in his final collegiate season if he makes it back to the top. However, through his work ethic, he has shown he can handle any course.
Dudeck will be enjoying his offseason back in North Dakota with plenty of time between the start of his fall season and the 2023 NAIA Championships in Mesa, Arizona.