This weekend the Michigan men’s golf team will travel 2,000 miles to take on a familiar adversary in an unfamiliar format.
The Wolverines will battle Michigan State in match play at the Desert Mountain Golf Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., this Saturday.
Michigan usually participates in stroke-play tournaments, so match play presents a departure from the norm. Individual players on each team go up against one another rather than the four lowest scores being counted toward a team total.
The Wolverines welcome the match with the Spartans as a good change of pace.
“Match play is a lot of fun because it’s different from what you normally do every week on the golf course,” freshman Billy McKay said. “You play more aggressive in match play than in stroke play.”
The change in format brings added pressure since the players battle one-on-one. They must be aware of their opponent’s actions at all times. A particularly good shot by one golfer might call for a more aggressive one from his opponent. With every shot important and little margin for error, all it takes is one drive out-of-bounds to lose a hole.
“I feel like it’s a different type of pressure,” junior Tim Schaetzel said. “In stroke play you always have 18 holes, but in match play, if you get off to a rough start, it can be tough to come back, especially since you don’t have much time to catch up at the end of a round.”
Michigan will want to get off to a good start against Michigan State. The Spartans are ranked 39th by Golf Week and feature two of the best players in program history – junior Ryan Brehm and senior Matt Harmon.
Brehm holds the lowest scoring average in Spartan history at 73.61, and Harmon has the third lowest at 73.86.
The match-ups have not been determined, but the Spartan duo will probably face Schaetzel and senior Kevin Dore – Michigan’s two lowest scorers.
After the Wolverines’ last tournament in Puerto Rico, Michigan coach Andrew Sapp noted the importance of competing well against other Big Ten teams in regular tournaments before the conference championships in late April. The match should help the Wolverines shake off some of the rust from their winter hiatus. Michigan had two strong tournaments to end the fall season before their subpar finish in Puerto Rico.
To come out on top, Michigan will need good drives off the tee, Sapp said. He said the Wolverines struggled in that area in Puerto Rico, hitting several tee shots out of bounds. Those extra strokes contributed in large part to Michigan’s 17th-place finish (out of 18).
“You really want to make sure you don’t take yourself out of the hole,” Sapp said. “You want to make sure you’re driving the ball well so we’ll work on that when we get down there early to practice.”