The Inverness Intercollegiate offered the Michigan men’s golf team a chance to start anew. With a strong performance, the Wolverines could put their second-to-last place finish at last week’s Windon Memorial Classic firmly in the rearview mirror, cementing their struggles as nothing more than a blip.
After placing ninth out of 15 teams in the two-day event this week, though, it’s clear that Michigan still has a ways to go before becoming a serious competitor.
“Ultimately, ninth place is not where we intend to finish,” said Michigan coach Zach Barlow. “Although there were some positives that we can take from moving forward, we still had mistakes that ended up leading to big penalties and resulted in us not finishing where we wanted to overall.”
The Wolverines finished 31-over-par, for a three-round team total of 883. Leading the way for Michigan was senior Brent Ito, whose 216 54-hole total landed him in a tie for 11th place out of 90. The performance marked Ito’s second straight top-12 finish to begin the season.
“Overall, I’m pretty satisfied, but definitely hungry to get better,” Ito said.
He attributes his early season success to the three-month-long rest period provided by the broken ankle he suffered last spring. After the rest, Ito came back rejuvenated and has been on a “pretty good stretch” ever since.
“(Ito’s) pulled our end and has played really well,” Barlow said. “He had a good finish last week and followed that up this week with another good one. He’s been the leader of this team thus far, really put us on his back and carried us.”
But Ito’s personal success has yet to translate to accomplishments for the Wolverines as a collective unit. Though golf is often viewed as an individual sport, team golf challenges that notion. All players are relied on to pull their weight equally, as the four highest scores are pooled together in the end.
Barlow recognizes that in this aspect — having a core group of strong players — Michigan isn’t quite there yet, though he feels it is getting close.
“Some of the things we talked about last week that we needed to get better at, we did get better at,” Barlow said. “One thing was stopping the bleeding quicker. Last week it took entirely too long. You’re always gonna run into stretches, especially in team golf, where you struggle, but the best teams bounce back quickly. I thought we were better at that this week. The guys took that to heart and were cognizant of that leading up to this week.”
At the Inverness Intercollegiate, there were flashes of potential. Junior Henry Spring shot a 69 (-2) in his final round, which tied his career best. Sophomore Ben Dunne tied his career low with a 72 (+1) and finished in a tie for 35th. On his last round, junior Charlie Pilon shot a 72, finishing tied at 46th.
Promising results like these have Barlow believing that sustained success is right around the corner.
“I think we’re close,” Barlow said. “Big numbers are fixable. The entire week, I said to my assistants that we’re close to breaking out. There’s a lot of talent on this team, all the way down the lineup… We’ll be a better team in the Spring than the Fall, and that’s because we’re going to continue to get better. I think per the breakout, it’s only a matter of time.”