Even though the Michigan men’s golf team was playing in Southern California this week, it didn’t feel like it. To the Wolverines, it felt a little bit like home.
Temperatures were in the low 50s, winds gusted at 20 miles per hour, and rain tormented the 14 teams at the 54-hole North Ranch Collegiate tournament in West Lake Village, Calif.
“It was like Midwest golf,” first-year coach Chris Whitten said. “It’s not really what you expect when you go out to (Los Angeles).
“We’ve played in that weather a bunch of times before.”
Yep, it felt like a typical spring day in Michigan at the North Ranch Country Club on Monday.
After a disappointing 13th-place finish in Puerto Rico the week before, the Wolverines were eager to get off to a strong start on the 36-hole Monday round. Senior Matt Thompson paced Michigan, shooting rounds of 77 and 74 on the par-70 course. Junior Miguel Echavarria (80-75) and freshman Noori Hyun (76-79) followed with matching scores of 155. Juniors Matt Alessi (74) and Jack Schultz (76) each contributed an 18-hole score to Michigan’s opening-day total.
The Wolverines sat in ninth place after Monday’s grueling round. They played solid golf, considering the conditions, but still left some strokes on the course.
“(The guys) are still trying to find their swings and find their rhythm,” Whitten said. “It’s a little bit tougher when you’re not playing every single day.”
On Tuesday, Michigan felt a little more comfortable, and it showed. Hyun’s 69, a career-best, spearheaded a team score of 295, good for fifth among team totals on the day.
In his last two events, Hyun has shot at least one round under par, and his coach couldn’t be more enthused.
“He was the leader for us on the course this week,” Whitten said. “I think that’s going to happen a lot more in the next four years. It’s great that he’s making a contribution like that.”
“He’s got huge upside. He hits it long off the tee and his short game keeps getting better.”
Michigan (906) finished in ninth place in the team standings, paced by Hyun’s 14-over-par total for the event. He finished in a tie for 23rd in the individual standings. Thompson closed with a four-over 74 and ended up tied for 26th. Echavarria rounded out his week with a steady two-over 72 and finished tied for 30th.
“For three of our guys to finish among the top 30 (here) makes this a real solid effort,” Whitten said.
The team will continue their unconventional spring break with practice rounds in Scottsdale, Ariz. later this week. The team will also rendezvous with Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon on Friday at the Desert Mountain Golf Club, as Brandon is hosting an alumni match.
For Whitten, the two-week respite from collegiate competition is just what the doctor ordered.
“The trip to Arizona is going to be good (for us) because we’ll have the whole (roster) there,” Whitten said. “We can play a couple rounds together and see where everyone’s game is at.
“(Roster spots are) definitely open.”
The Wolverines’ next tournament is the 54-hole Furman Intercollegiate in Greenville, S.C. on March 16-18. Michigan finished tied for 11th (894 team total) the last time they played at the event, back in 2005.