By Simon Kaufman, For the Daily
Published October 17, 2012
A trip to sunny California seems like a relaxing way to spend Fall Break. But for the Michigan men’s golf team, a trip out to Fairfax, Calif. for the Alister MacKenzie Invitational proved to be anything but a vacation.
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The Wolverines, who concluded their second and final day of play on Tuesday, finished 14th out of 16 teams.
“We need to continue to get a top-to-bottom team effort,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten, “We keep having some strong individual performances and we just need more consistency from the entire lineup.”
Senior captain Miguel Echavarria had a strong tournament, and he matched his career-low, shooting a 3-under 68 in the second round on Monday. The second-round tally for Echavarria marked the third time he has scored that low and also ties the best round for a Michigan golfer this season.
“The course wasn’t terribly hard, and I was able to get some birdies,” Echavarria said.
Despite his success he expressed frustration with the team’s play as a whole.
“The guys look at Miguel in a lot of ways off the course to see how he’s going to react,” Whitten said. “With Miguel, his ball striking is always very good. It’s just a matter of whether he can capitalize on his good shots or not, and he did that the best in the second round.”
Freshman Chris O’Neill also performed well on day one, shooting a 2-under 69 in the first round and a 1-under 70 in the second round. O’Neill credited his performance to his consistency, highlighting that he played the par-5’s and par-3’s better than usual.
“It was in great shape,” O’Neill said of the course. “It was a course where you could shoot a good score if you were playing well.”
Added Whiten: “Chris is getting more and more comfortable in the events. He’s pretty close to a complete player. He’s a great ball striker. He worked hard on his putting before coming to this tournament. … I think the guys are building some trust in him.”
Sophomore Noori Hyun was disqualified in the first round on Monday for using an illegal club.
“He had a club that was altered during the round, and the rules say that once a club is bent you can’t use it again,” Whitten said.
According to the coach, Hyun was unaware of the rule. He was allowed to play in the subsequent second and third rounds with his scores counting towards the team total.
Despite some strong performances on Monday, Michigan finished just three spots from the bottom, a position it held until the end of play. The Wolverines finished the tournament with a team score of 868 (294, 286, 288), well behind California, which won the tournament with an overall team score of a 46-under 806.
“We did some positive things,” Whitten said. “We got some under-par rounds and guys were making birdies out there. They were putting some scores together and starting to build some confidence, and I think we needed that after playing some really, really tough courses to start the year.”
Michigan will finish its season at the Stanford Classic in Palo Alto, Calif. in two weeks. Whitten knows the competition will again be tough. One area he said he’d like his team to improve in is putting.
“We really want to be one of the best putting teams in the country,” Whitten said.
Putting and a strong performance from Echavarria and O’Neill could result in the Wolverines getting the type of finish they have been hoping for.
“We know we’re good and we know we can improve,” Echavarria said.