Amidst difficult, windy playing conditions that halted play after the first round, the Michigan men’s golf team finished tied for second in the Colleton River Collegiate tournament at the Colleton River Plantation Club.
The Wolverines traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina, to participate in the four-team, 54-hole tournament as they concluded their annual spring break training trip. Penn State won the tournament with a final score of 916, host Michigan State tied with Michigan for second with a 927 and Detroit finished in last place with a 964.
The Wolverines were paced by a balanced, well-rounded attack, in stark contrast with previous tournaments where one individual player would step up and lead the pack. Freshman Chris O’Neill led the Wolverines with a 16-over-par 232, good for seventh-best overall, but he was followed close behind by freshman Brett McIntosh, freshman Andrew Yeager and senior Matt Alessi, who all finished only one stroke behind O’Neill.
Overall, five Wolverines placed in the top eight, including senior Miguel Echavarria, who played as an individual.
Mired by heavy winds reaching upwards of 30 miles per hour, first round scores were uncharasterically high across the board. Michigan finished the day in second place, eight strokes behind Penn State. Though the Wolverines closed to within two strokes after the second round, they were unable to make up the deficit, and finished eleven shots back.
“It would have been nice to get the win because the field was so small,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten. “But we can only control how we do, and overall our guys are going the right way.”
Though the second round was scheduled to be played immediately after the first round on Tuesday, the inclement weather forced play to be postponed until Wednesday. Fortunately, conditions improved significantly, and the final two rounds were played without incident.
“[On Tuesday] the weather conditions were really extreme, especially with the wind speeds,” Whitten said. “The winds affected putting the most, and some of the balls were blowing off the green.”
Matt Alessi finished strong with a one-over par 73 in the final round to record the Wolverines’ best individual round. It marked a significant turnaround for the senior, as he began the tournament shooting a team-worst 85 in the windy first round.
“Yesterday was such a grind mentally, but it was nice to get out there to play today in much better conditions,” Alessi said. “It’s a great course and it was definitely good practice and a test for what we are going to see in the Big 10 championships.”
In the days leading up to the tournament, Michigan had a chance to practice and train at nearby courses in the area, which provided a welcome change of scenery for the team.
“We have a great (indoor) facility at home for practice, but you can never quite replicate playing on good grass and a good course,” Whitten sad.
The Wolverines have two more regular season tournaments left before the Big 10 championships, and though the season has been something of a disappointment thus far, Whitten said the team is looking forward to finishing strong and building momentum for the stretch run. Their next tournament is in Virginia for the C&A Bank Intercollegiate, to be played March 24-26.