When the first day of the Inverness Intercollegiate in Toledo, Ohio, wrapped up for the Michigan men’s golf team, the Wolverines weren’t where they wanted to be. After shooting a team score of 592, Michigan found itself in ninth place out of 13 teams.
But Tuesday, the second and final day of the tournament, the Wolverines changed that.
Shooting a school and tournament record of 270, Michigan catapulted itself up the leaderboard to a third-place finish.
“I told them (Monday) night that attitude is one of the few things that we’re able to control on the golf course,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten. “The execution and the bounce of the ball is something where you hope for the best and want the best, but it’s out of your control sometimes. So we just had to have an A+ attitude and hope that it would bleed into the scores, and it did (Tuesday).”
The Wolverines were led by sophomore Nick Carlson. The righty, who finished fourth place in the U.S. Amateur Championship in August, carried his summer momentum to a first-place tie with a score of 209.
Carlson didn’t stop there, though. On the first hole of the playoff to decide the tournament’s overall winner, Carlson hit his approach shot to about 15 feet and two-putted for a par. His opponent, Jake Shuman from Duke, missed the green to the right and couldn’t recover, finishing with a bogey.
The victory was the first of Carlson’s career.
“I think he’s hitting the same shots that he always has,” Whitten said. “The difference is that he believes he can win, and he’s expecting to play well. I think a lot of people know that golf is mostly a mental game, and I think (Carlson) is starting to figure that piece out. He’s got a lot of confidence.”
Carlson wasn’t the only Wolverine who improved on Tuesday. Senior Tom Swanson tied Carlson’s final round with a 67, while junior Kyle Mueller and senior Bryce Evon each shot 68 to fuel the team’s comeback.
The tournament was the first in a long season for Michigan, which enters the year with a mostly returning cast. But in the 2016-17 season, the Wolverines expect even more. Michigan will now face a quick turnaround, when it travels to Windon, Ill., for the Windon Memorial Classic on Sunday. But if Carlson and the rest of the team can maintain thir momentum, they stand a good chance of living up to their lofty expectations.
“We’ve gone to (the NCAA Regionals) the past two years,” Whitten said. “I know that the Big Ten Tournament is a really important one for (the team) — and going back to the regionals and then going to the national championship, which our team hasn’t done in a couple of years. But that’s a very realistic expectation, and we’ll work toward that.”