Many a player and coach have said, “It’s not the way you start, rather it’s the way you finish.”
The Michigan men’s golf team can take solace in this statement because the start of their spring season has gone about as bad as one could possibly imagine. So far, the Wolverines have finished in the top half of the tournament field just once.
Previously, Michigan had been pointing to the Furman Invitational as the starting point for its revival. In last season’s Furman Invitational, the Wolverines turned their season around with an impressive third-place showing. But, their performance this year wasn’t what they were looking for. Only one Michigan golfer, junior Christian Vozza, finished in the top-20 individually, and the team finished 11th overall.
Michigan’s main problem has been consistency. Individuals have been able to shoot some good rounds of golf, but they have been unable to string these good rounds together for a whole tournament. Despite finishing 20th in the Furman Invitational, Vozza’s play is a perfect example of this inconsistency. After starting the tournament with an impressive 69, he faltered in the second and third rounds posting scores of 77 and 74, respectively.
“I am just not playing consistent golf,” Vozza said. “It just seems like I have spurts where I am hitting the ball well and then there are those other times when I just do not have a good feel.”
Those problems from round to round indicate a larger concern for the Wolverines. The coaching staff believes that it is not necessarily a physical issue, and have rather begun focusing on the mental aspect of the game.
“We’ve been meeting with a few of the guys on an individual basis to discuss their mental toughness throughout tournaments,” Michigan coach Andrew Sapp said. “We are really trying to get them to work better on their preparation.”
Part of this consistency issue can be blamed on the harsh Michigan winter. While teams from warmer climates are able to practice outside on actual golf courses, the Wolverines are forced to practice indoors at a driving range.
“We’ve got a fragile confidence right now,” Sapp said. “We haven’t been able to play as many rounds as we would have liked — due to the weather. I think our confidence will rise now that we’re getting some better weather.”
Because of their inability to practice outdoors, the Wolverines have felt added pressure when playing in tournaments. These tournaments represent the only time they get to play on a regular golf course.
“There really has been a lot of pressure, at least competitive pressure, all the time and every round we have played in the spring,” Vozza said. “Once we get out there on the course — hopefully soon — and get a couple of rounds under our belts without that loaded pressure each time we tee it up, that will definitely help us out and even help get us back into a groove a little bit.”
After the disappointing 11th place finish last weekend, the Wolverines have three weeks off until they tee off in the Boilermaker Invitational on April 16. As the Ann Arbor weather improves, Michigan will finally be able to practice on its own golf course. The Wolverines are hoping this time off will jumpstart their season.