For avid golfers, April is the pinnacle of the year. The sweet spring rains refresh the greens and fairways, keeping them soft and forgiving. The sun rises earlier and sets later, making for extended practice and pleasure out on the links. And for competitive golfers, the season is ripe and new like the fruit from a budding tree.
But so far, the Michigan men’s golf team has yet to find its stride despite the improving weather. The Wolverines finished up the Boilermaker Invitational last weekend in West Lafayette in 10th place out of 12 teams with an overall score of 900. It was a disappointing showing for the Wolverines, especially because they had three weeks to recover from an 11th-place finish out of 20 teams at the Furman Intercollegiate in Greenville, S.C. Michigan even had the opportunity to practice on its home course in Ann Arbor — for the first time of the season — under beautiful weather conditions. But in West Lafayette, many of the shortcomings that have plagued the Wolverines came back to haunt them.
Michigan’s main frustration this past weekend was its inconsistent play. The team did not have enough good scores per round to ascend up the rankings. Sophomore Matt McLaughlin shot a career-best 1-under 71 in the final round but carded a 77 and 76 in the first two rounds, respectively. And freshman Tim Schaetzel shot a 76 in the first round and a 72 in the second round to lead all Michigan players after the first day but finished the final round with an 80. Schaetzel dropped down to the team’s fourth-best scorer.
“It seems like the same old song,” coach Andrew Sapp said. “We have a good round here and there with a bad round here and there. … We had some good play throughout the tournament, but we are just missing shooting that decent score because we have to count a poor round. We cannot count a 77 or 78. Those need to be 74s or 75s.”
Adding to Michigan’s woes was the disappointing play of the team’s best player, junior Christian Vozza. He carded a frustrating 235 overall (78-80-77) and ended up as the team’s fifth-best scorer. But according to Sapp, this should be no cause for alarm.
“Vozza’s performance was quite surprising for me,” Sapp said. “It was an uphill battle for us — as it would be for any team — to stay competitive with our best player scoring way below his potential. But he will recover quickly from this off-weekend. Once he is done with finals, he will be good to go.”
But the fact that the best scores did not pile up each round does not take away from McLaughlin and Schaetzel’s superb performances. With a score of 224, McLaughlin finished as Michigan’s best overall scorer and tied the second-best tournament finish of his career. In addition, Schaetzel’s 54-hole tournament total of 228 was a career-best by one stroke. He tallied a 229 at the Furman Intercollegiate.
With the next event in sight, the players will devote a good deal of time to regaining their confidence and strengthening their mindset. McLaughlin saw this weekend that mental toughness boosted his performance, and he believes that this could be a key ingredient to the team’s future success.
“I have been battling with my mental thoughts all season,” McLaughlin said. “If we can just stay within ourselves and focus more on the mental side of the round, I think good things will happen.”