In its first three tournaments of the season, the Michigan men’s golf team improved by at least three spots on the leaderboard between days.
But this week at the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in Carrollton, Tex., the Wolverines couldn’t replicate that trend. They sat in 13th place — out of the 14-team field — after Monday’s opening play and slipped into dead last on Tuesday with a total score of 918. Oklahoma State shot 91 strokes better to win the event.
“It was a very frustrating week,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten. “Our guys just didn’t hit the ball well enough, really. We were in trouble off the tee, and that got us in trouble right away on some difficult holes. That’s something we normally pride ourselves on, and it was tough this week. But I was proud of the guys, from an attitude standpoint. They stayed with it as much as they could, even though they were frustrated.”
Michigan faced a bad break even before the competition began. The event was originally set to take place at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, Tex. The Wolverines have competed there four times before, and thus hoped their course knowledge would pay dividends.
Two days before leaving Ann Arbor, though, the event switched to Maridoe Golf Club because Royal Oaks Country Club was flooded. Sunday’s practice round was the first time the team set foot on the new course, and there wasn’t enough time to get acclimated.
“We played one practice round,” Whitten said, “and then tried to learn it as best we could and went from there.”
The tournament was scheduled to have three rounds of 18 holes, with two played on Monday and the finale on Tuesday. Things didn’t go as planned, though.
On Monday, Michigan posted a score of 306 in the first round, but darkness suspended play during the second with three holes remaining for the team. Junior Brent Ito carded a four-over-par 74 to lead the team and rank 33rd in the field.
“The course was so hard,” Whitten said, “it was just taking so long to play that we couldn’t quite finish all 36 holes on Monday.”
The teams returned to the course Tuesday morning to finish round two and start round three. The Wolverines continued to struggle, though, and tallied scores of 302 and 310, respectively. They were the only team to shoot in the three-hundreds all three rounds.
“It was on us. I mean, we just weren’t swinging well enough,” Whitten said. “The guys were trying hard to find their swings and it just took too long for that to happen.”
Ito notched scores of 71 and 78 in the latter rounds to finish 36th. Senior Nick Carlson, sophomores Henry Spring and Charlie Pilon, as well as freshman Ben Dunne, also competed. They finished 54th, 59th, 66th and 77th, respectively, out of 80 golfers.
The format of the event was different than usual. All five of Michigan’s golfers played in the same group, with their coaches walking alongside them.
“When you play well it’s pretty fun, actually. You can get momentum going,” Whitten said of the format. “I don’t think it was a negative for us at all this week. We just never got our momentum started for it to catch on for all the guys.”
This competition marked the end of the Wolverines’ fall season. Their next event is slated for Florida in February.
It wasn’t the week Michigan hoped for, so until February, Whitten plans to help his players hone their technique.
“There are some guys who really need to work on their fitness and mobility,” Whitten said. “Other guys, their full swing needs a lot of work. Some guys, it’s their short game. So, we’ll have an individual plan for each guy.”