The Michigan men’s golf team executed well last weekend,
considering the only white ball they’ve seen outdoors lately
is a snowball.

“The thing I was really impressed with was our guys were
making birdies,” coach Andrew Sapp said. “The only
thing was, we made a few too many double bogeys, which ultimately
will cost you a lot.”

The most impressive Wolverine performances came from Brandon
Duff. Duff’s 73 was one stroke lower than his season average
(74.44) and five strokes lower than his career average (78.27).
Duff, a native of Goodrich, extended his streak of sub-80 rounds to
10 in Tempe, Ariz.

“I came into this season with a different mindset,”
Duff said. “I’m ready to roll, more fired up and I have
more motivation to get out there and play better.”

Duff and fellow young guns Christian Vozza, Will Kendall, Kevin
Dore and Matt McLaughlin will play under the Puerto Rican sun over
spring break. The team will compete in the Puerto Rico Classic, a
three-day tournament, which commences Sunday.

“Last year, we got last place,” Duff said. “So
anything is an improvement. At the same time, the team’s got
the capability to play with the top teams if everything goes
together.”

The River Course, as its name indicates, will provide a
significant challenge with its strategically positioned water. The
7,000-yard layout, designed by two-time British Open champion Greg
“The Shark” Norman, has the Mameyes River winding
through a majority of the holes.

However, the course’s wide fairways and open greens make
it vulnerable to golfers who focus on course management.

“I like the course in Puerto Rico,” Duff said.
“I think it’s nice but at the same time it is more of a
shot-maker course.”

Course management has been a facet of Duff’s game that has
improved this year.

“Brandon’s matured quite a bit from last year to
this year,” Sapp said. “Last year he tried to overpower
golf courses more than he should have and made lots of sevens and
eights. Now he focuses more on course management that’s a
sign of maturity.”

While in the warm Arizona weather this past weekend, Sapp had
his players on the driving range preparing for the Puerto Rico
trip.

“Down in Puerto Rico the winds can be troubling, and the
golf course we’re playing on has a lot of water,” Sapp
said.

“So we worked on hitting a lot of 2-irons and 3-woods off
the tee so when we get to Puerto Rico we won’t have to worry
about driving into the river or the ocean.”

Sapp also focused some practice time on shaping ball trajectory,
which will be essential to neutralizing the Puerto Rican winds.
However the players spent most of the practice session with a
putter and wedge in their hands.

“We focused mainly on the short game because that’s
where I saw our guys were rusty the most,” Sapp said.
“A lot of chipping, putting and bunker play.”

Considering that the competition has gotten stiffer, improving
on its finish last year in Puerto Rico will not be easy for the
men’s golf team. Four of the five top-ranked teams in the
nation — Florida, Clemson, Georgia and Georgia Tech —
will be there. Big Ten rivals Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota and
Illinois are also scheduled to tee it up.

“After this tournament, we’ll know if we’re
able to compete nationally,” Sapp said.

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