The Michigan men’s golf team’s season came to a premature end during the NCAA Washington Regional last week, as the Wolverines shot 886 (292-298-296) to finish in 10th place, missing the top-five finish needed to advance to Nationals. Southern California clinched first, 37 strokes ahead of Michigan.
Junior Kyle Mueller shot a 212 (71-71-70) to finish tied for eighth place, but came up one stroke shy of forcing a playoff to go to Nationals as an individual.
The Wolverines had stellar play in the first round spearheaded by Mueller, sophomore Nick Carlson and senior Bryce Evon. All three were in the top 15 after day one of the tournament. Carlson’s first round score of 68 put him in a tie for third while Evon carded a 69 and was tied for sixth.
The duo gave up crucial strokes during days two and three, causing them to move down the leaderboard. They finished tied for 17th and tied for 34th, respectively.
Mueller had the third-best score for Michigan in the opening round and was initially tied for 14th. His game showed to be more consistent than his teammates, though, as he moved up the leaderboard for the remaining rounds.
Despite the steady play from Mueller, Carlson and Evon, the Wolverines lack of depth led to their demis. Senior Tom Swanson and junior Ian Kim also started for Michigan, and finished 69th and 75th out of the 75-player field.
“We had good golf going on in every round, it was just a question of whether we had enough guys doing it,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten. “We knew to advance it was gonna take all five guys playing good golf and (we) just weren’t consistent enough.”
The Wolverines had a successful season with six top-three finishes, including two tournament wins. They won the Dayton Flyer Invitational back in October and the Desert Mountain Intercollegiate in March.
“The season overall was another step in the right direction for us. We had two tournament wins out of 12 events, which is the first time we’ve done that since I’ve been the head coach,” Whitten said. “I think when we add up all the numbers at the end, our season scoring average for the year is either gonna be the lowest in the history of the program or very close to it.”
This tournament marked the last event under Michigan for Evon and Swanson, who will not be with the team next year. Senior Reed Hrynewich is also leaving, but did not compete in Washington. Carlson and Mueller will both return and Whitten expects them to lead the team.
“We got Nick Carlson and Kyle Mueller returning who have both played really high-level events and should have a lot of confidence,” Whitten said. “They go to every tournament trying to win and they’re just trying to refine really small parts of their game like shots around the green or ball striking consistency.”
Kim, along with freshmen Brent Ito and Taisei Negishi, will also be coming back. Neither Ito nor Negishi saw much tournament action this season.
The Wolverines will be gaining three players by next season, including two international players — Connor Prassas of Illinois, Charlie Pilon of Australia and Henry Spring of New Zealand will all join the upcoming roster.
“We are gonna have three new players on the team next year,” Whitten said. “When you replace three out of eight guys the chemistry of the team is gonna be a little different, and they will have a different feel next year.”
Michigan will be searching for consistency as it starts its 2017-18 season in September, but Whitten was still proud of his team’s results from the past year.
“(I am) disappointed that we didn’t get to go to Nationals because I would have loved to see the guys compete there, but overall I think it was a good season,” Whitten said. “We are still kind of thinking about today, but I am excited to get the new guys here and start building again.”