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Chris Murphy, Published July 03 2013

Ex-Spuds golfer Welle verbally commits to Kansas

MOORHEAD – Moorhead High School graduate Ben Welle has always surprised people on the golf course.

He surprised Moorhead by easily making the varsity team as a freshman. He surprised the state of Minnesota by winning the individual state title as a senior, while leading the Spuds to their first team championship in 2012. He surprised Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College after starting the season as a walk-on and ending it as a Division I junior college All-American this past season.

Moorhead golf coach Eric Tollefson was done being surprised by Welle after making the Spuds varsity team as a freshman. Not that Welle didn’t continue to deliver, but Tollefson saw it coming. Even when Welle received a scholarship in the last few days to golf at the University of Kansas next season, Tollefson wasn’t shocked.

“Ben was on our radar right away as a freshman,” Tollefson said. “He shot a round in the 70s his second day of the state tournament. I’ve been coaching almost 10 years now, and that’s only happened one other time for us. It tells you you got a kid with a big upside.”

A shock to Tollefson was the lack of looks Welle got from colleges during his senior season.

“There’s a lot of really good golfers under the radar that aren’t playing in these national junior events,” Tollefson said.

“That’s where college recruiters are looking. It’s kind of frustrating to be the coach of a player that wins the state tournament and doesn’t really get a lot of serious looks at any big-name colleges.”

Just like with his game, Welle was patient and took the junior college route.

“It’s a testament to Ben’s skill and mental toughness,” Tollefson said. “At this point, you can’t not look at the guy. It’s a credit to Ben and his work ethic as a player. The fact that he went down there and had immediate success didn’t surprise me. Given the fact of Ben’s success and the improvement he showed over the four years in the Spuds program, it wasn’t a major shock. I’d seen enough out of him to suspect that he’d have that kind of success.”

At this point, even reaching the pinnacle of golf wouldn’t surprise Tollefson at this point regarding Welle.

Welle couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

“Kansas is getting a player that is going to be able to compete immediately in the Big 12 Conference and a player whose upside is fantastic,” Tollefson said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the improvement for Ben. He’s got a long way to go, but if he wants to go beyond college golf, he’s got the game potentially to make that happen, and he’s got the mental game to make that happen. There’s a lot of things that have to go right to go beyond college and make a run at the pros, but Ben has the skill set that would certainly give him a shot at it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548