Mueller hits 'em straight at Boilermaker Invitational

Sunday, April 15, 2018 - 6:23pm

The Michigan men's golf team finished eighth out of 17 teams at the Boilermaker Invitational.

The Michigan men's golf team finished eighth out of 17 teams at the Boilermaker Invitational. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

By the end of Saturday’s opening rounds, Kyle Mueller had worked his way into a good spot. The senior sat tied for second place — just one stroke off the lead — and would have a chance to make his move come Sunday.

Or so he thought.

Weather dictated otherwise. Overnight rain paired with strong winds made the course unplayable, canceling the final round of the Boilermaker Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind.

“It definitely felt a little strange,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten. “We went to the golf course today really hoping to play. … It just wasn’t gonna be possible. … It’s one of those things we don’t have any control over.”

Mueller settled for a runner-up finish at four-under par, while the Michigan men’s golf team finished in eighth with a 587 (294 first 18, 293 second). Kent State and Northwestern co-championed the 17-team field, scoring eight strokes better than the Wolverines.

Though Mueller’s opportunity to win washed away with the rain, he still put his skills on display during Saturday’s 36 holes.

Though there was no rain, heavy winds wreaked havoc for many — but not Mueller.

When it’s windy on the course, golfers who naturally play draws or fades struggle to adjust. This is where Mueller’s talent comes into play. Because of his straight ball flight, he’s able to better compensate for the wind. This helped him successfully navigate the course and post back-to-back 70s while others stumbled.

“Generally, the thing that makes Kyle so good is his ball striking,” Whitten said. “He just hits the ball very solid and very straight. He rarely curves it off line very much. … Everyone else’s misses are amplified much more, and Kyle does very well.”

Five other Wolverines competed as well. Junior Nick Carlson and sophomore Brent Ito finished 62nd and 70th, respectively, while sophomore Taisei Negishi played as an individual and placed 92nd in the 92-player field.

Freshmen Charlie Pilon and Henry Spring played well enough to impress Whitten, placing 12th and 56th.

“They’ve just become very good at adapting to whatever the weather or the circumstances are,” Whitten said. “That’s what you’ve gotta be able to do in college golf, so I was happy about that.”

Michigan improved by one stroke between the two rounds, which was much more significant than it may entail. The team’s first round score of 294 was only the eighth-best of that 18-hole stretch, but the Wolverines’ 293 in round two marked the second-best of that stage.

Whitten credits the improvement to his team’s calm during the storm, and thinks Michigan could have made some noise Sunday.

“The conditions yesterday were so tough,” Whitten said. “So, I would say the guys held their own and did a very good job of focusing in tough conditions. Even though we were eighth place, we were not that far behind the leader. That’s why we wanted to play today, because we really thought there was a good chance to move up.

“I think we had some momentum going.”

But the Wolverines never got the chance to build on that momentum.