Heading into this past weekend’s Big Ten Championships in Independence, Minnesota, Michigan men’s golf coach Andrew Sapp knew that his players would have to play some of their best golf in order to top a field consisting of eight teams ranked in the nation’s top 100.
And after posting a team score of 294 on Saturday, the 49th-ranked Wolverines found themselves in a position to do just that.
After three rounds, Michigan found itself in second place, 12 strokes behind first-place Illinois.
But the Wolverines couldn’t keep their momentum going into Sunday’s final round, as they posted a final round score of 299 and ended the weekend with a fourth-place finish behind Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern.
“We didn’t get much support, unfortunately,” Sapp said. “And that’s what happens when you finish fourth instead of first or second.”
Michigan was led by sophomore Matt Thompson and freshman Jack Schultz, who finished second and fifth, respectively. Junior Lion Kim finished 26th overall.
After shooting a 68 on Saturday, a career best at the Big Ten Championships, Thompson sat atop the leaderboard, tied with David Lipsky of Northwestern.
“It was a long three rounds prior to that (the final round),” Thompson said. “I just wanted to be patient going into the final round and basically just do the same thing that I did in the first three rounds.”
But, much like his team, Thompson could not quite get it together on Sunday. He opened the last round with a bogey on the first hole and had a hard time making big putts. He ended the round with three total bogeys and just one birdie.
“A couple of putts here and there on the last two holes, and he would have tied for a medalist,” Sapp said.
Thompson finished the weekend with scores of 73-69-68-73 for a one-under par 283, two strokes behind Lipsky, who finished even on Sunday and three-under for the tournament.
Still, Thompson’s performance over the weekend is a big step forward for someone a sophomore who has yet to play his best golf. His final score of 283 was the second best 72-hole score in Wolverine history.
“It’s fantastic to see how much he’s grown from last year to this year,” Sapp said. “He’s just done a fantastic job, and hopefully he’ll keep improving year in and year out as well as the next couple of weeks in regionals.”
It would be safe to say that Schultz, a freshman, will be right there with Thompson as the two continue to establish themselves as two of the best young golfers in the country. Schultz set a couple records of his own as his fifth-place finish and his three-over par total are the best ever by a Michigan freshman at the conference tournament.
“Jack fought really hard all week,” Sapp said. “I’m proud of how he played.”
The Wolverines will need Schultz and Thompson to continue their hot play if they would like to make it to the NCAA Championships in June. In order to qualify for NCAAs, Michigan will have to finish in the top-five in their region.