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Michigan golf disappoints at Big Ten Championships

BY JEFF GARLAND
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 28, 2013

Coming off a dominant 13-stroke victory at the Detroit Golf Club Invitational just two weeks ago — the first victory under second-year head coach Chris Whitten — the Michigan men’s golf team seemed poised to surprise at the Big Ten Championship this weekend.

“Golf is a momentum sport and we had good momentum coming into the event,” Whitten said.

But the Wolverines were unable to build off the momentum they achieved in their lone win, and the result was a 10th-place finish out of 12 teams at the conference championship held in French Lick, Indiana at the French Lick Resort's Pete Dye Course.

The tournament consisted of four stroke-play rounds in three days with the standard 5-count-4 scoring format, meaning that only the team’s top-four individual scores, out of five, were counted.

Collectively, Michigan never broke 300 in any round. Along with Wisconsin, who finished last, the Wolverines were the only team to fail to shoot under that mark at least once. By comparison, tournament-winner Illinois never shot above 300 in any round.

“We were disappointed with our finish,” Whitten added. “We obviously have some growing to do and a lot to improve on.”

Despite the team’s struggles, the Wolverines have a lot to look forward to in the coming years with the stellar play of freshmen Chris O’Neill and Brett McIntosh.

O’Neill entered play as Michigan’s best player, with a per-round scoring average of 73.92. He is the first freshman in school history to lead the team in the category.

Though he shot above his average this weekend, posting a total score of 297 (74.25), the mark was good enough for his fifth-consecutive and seventh-overall top-20 finish in the 60-player field. Officially, he finished tied in 13th place, with a 9-over-par.

McIntosh, the team’s lone lefty, also continued playing well this weekend, posting a score of 299 (+11), good enough for a tie for 15th place. He entered play second on the team with a 74.75 per-round scoring average.

The other three Wolverines did not play so well, as they all finished in the bottom eight of the field.

Walk-on senior Matt Alessi finished tied in 53rd after shooting a 314 (+26) for the four rounds. The result is a small improvement from last year, as Alessi finished 59th in the 2012 tournament.

After winning the Detroit Golf Club Invitational two weeks ago with a two-round score of 138 (-2), sophomore Noori Hyun disappointed this weekend. He failed to break 80 in two of his four rounds, posting a cumulative score of 316 (+28), resulting in a 56th-place finish. Unlike Alessi, Hyun’s position this year is worse than last year when he finished 55th.

Perhaps most disappointing, though, was the play of senior captain Miguel Echavarria. Last year, he finished tied for 33rd place with a score of 309. This year, the senior finished in 57th place with a score of 321 (+33).

The season ends here for Michigan, however, there is a chance that O’Neill will be invited to participate individually in the NCAA Regionals.