In last year’s Furman Intercollegiate, the Michigan men’s golf team came through with one of its top performances of the season, taking third place out of 20 squads. This year, the Wolverines are hoping to repeat their performance in the same tournament this weekend and turn around what has been a difficult spring. Michigan finished a disappointing eighth out of 12 teams in its last tournament, the Conrad Rehling Invitational in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“We have struggled lately,” Michigan coach Andrew Sapp said. “I was a little bit surprised and disappointed that we struggled so much coming out of spring break in Puerto Rico. (The Conrad Rehling Invitational) was a tournament that I thought we should have been top-five in, but we didn’t play very well. I was shocked that our guys struggled so much.”
In spite of the Wolverines’ struggles so far this spring, the team remains optimistic heading into this weekend’s tournament.
“I think it gives the guys confidence, knowing that this is a tournament that we have done well in before,” Sapp said. “It helps just to be familiar with the course and know that you have played well on it before.”
Because the Furman University Golf Course, at 6,800 yards, plays relatively short, the Wolverines have focused on their short games in practice this week. Sapp said that a large part of Monday and Tuesday’s practices would be devoted to shooting wedge shots of less than 100 yards.
“It isn’t a very long course,” Sapp said. “So if you can hit your drives straight and hit some good wedge shots, it gives you the opportunity to shoot some very low scores.”
While playing well inside of 100 yards, will be important for Michigan, it is just as critical that players who have struggled lately return to form.
“I think, when you are in a slump, a lot of times it’s partly a confidence thing,” Sapp said. “I also think a lot of times the way to break out of a slump is to get out there and just shoot your way out of it, like a basketball player. That’s tough when we can’t even practice outside on our home course yet.”
It should help that junior Christian Vozza appeared to break out of his own personal slump by firing a final-round score of 68 in Alabama. Sapp identified Vozza and senior Rob Tighe as two Wolverines with the potential to finish first individually at the Furman Intercollegiate.
“Tighe has been very steady for us this spring, and that has been huge for us,” Sapp said. “He has been very consistent and hasn’t shot any high numbers, so he’s someone who, if he plays well, will have a chance to win this tournament. Christian should be confident because he had a chance to win this tournament last year and he’s coming off a really good last round.”
The Furman Intercollegiate will run tomorrow through Sunday with par set at 72. This year’s edition will include 19 teams, almost all of them hailing from the south.
“It’s tough going against all these schools from South Carolina and Georgia who can practice at their own courses already,” Sapp said.