Wolverines finish sixth at Big Ten Championships

Monday, April 30, 2018 - 2:39pm

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File Photo/Daily

Heading into his last six holes of Friday’s opening round, freshman Charlie Pilon sat at one over par. He then notched four birdies before signing his scorecard to move into a three-way tie at three-under (67).

Pilon couldn’t replicate his success over the weekend, though, and carded scores of 71 and 82 the next two days to finish in 31st at the Big Ten Championships in Baltimore, MD. The Michigan men’s golf team couldn’t quite get the job done either and finished in sixth with a score of 865 (25 over). Illinois scored 29 strokes better than the Wolverines to top the 14-team field.

“I would say it was an okay performance,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten following Sunday’s final round. “I wish we had had a couple better rounds to really get into contention and have a chance on the last nine today, but there were definitely some good things this week too.”

Warm weather and minimal wind made Saturday’s playing conditions the best. As a result, the Wolverines tallied a 278 that day — a substantial improvement from their score of 291 on Friday. But the solid second round only moved the team two spots up the leaderboard — from eighth to sixth — because other teams excelled as well.

“Honestly, the course played the easiest for all the teams in the second round,” Whitten said. “The course was more getable in round two.”

Bitter cold and heavy winds made Sunday the most difficult. The greens played much faster than the first two days and troubled Michigan, as the team carded a 296 to stay stagnant on the leaderboard.

Despite leading the field after round one, Pilon finished third best for his team. Fellow freshman Henry Spring and sophomore Brent Ito placed ahead of him in 10th and 22nd, respectively.

“Really good performances from some of the young guys,” Whitten said, “which was encouraging.”

Senior Kyle Mueller and junior Nick Carlson also competed for the Wolverines and finished in 47th and 56th out of the 70-player field.

Now, Michigan will wait for the NCAA Regional selection show on Wednesday, May 2nd.

“Our team is probably just gonna miss Regionals,” Whitten said. “I think our ranking isn’t gonna quite be high enough to get one of the at large bids. But I think Kyle Mueller will get picked to play as an individual at Regionals, so his season will keep going.”

With the season likely over, it’s time to think about next year. With Mueller leaving, the Wolverines have a big hole to fill in. He’s played in every single event in his four years and boasts an impressive, 71.58 career scoring average. Mueller has been his team’s go-to guy over the years, and he even played in the 2016 U.S. Open.

Michigan will also be without senior Ian Kim, a steady contributor who’s started eight events this year.

As two golfers leave, two will come in. Patrick Sullivan from Grosse Pointe, MI. and Ben Dunne from Cedar Park, TX. are both set to join. With them, Whitten is optimistic about the future.

“Those guys are gonna compete to be in the starting lineup right away. They’re both very good players,” Whitten said. “This tournament, this week, made me feel even better about our core of guys coming back next year. They’ve really gotten a lot better, and they understand what it takes to get better and handle themselves out on the course.”