Nobody on the Michigan men’s golf team has waited for a shot at redemption longer than seniors Nick Pumford and Bill Rankin.

Both have spent three seasons on campus toiling for a team that finished near the bottom of the Big Ten. Michigan hasn’t been ranked higher than fifth in the conference since they arrived in Ann Arbor.

But the Wolverines are a legitimate contender for the conference title this season for the first time in 10 years. Last year, Michigan was close to having a breakthrough season, missing out on qualifying for the NCAA Championships by just three strokes. With four returning starters, expectations are dramatically higher this season.

Pumford and Rankin both made efforts in the offseason to ensure Michigan will live up to its potential.

Rankin played in the British Amateur at Turnberry in Scotland, the site of next year’s British Open, after qualifying by winning the Maxwell in May of last season. He finished 49th in the stroke play portion of the tournament, qualifying for match play and winning once before bowing out.

“It wasn’t something I was planning on doing,” Rankin said. “I’d never been to Scotland. But I wanted to go because it’s considered the home of golf. The grass was hard as a cement walkway and playing golf there was definitely different, but it was a fun experience.”

Pumford played in the Michigan Amateur and in a local qualifier for the U.S. Open. He stayed near Ann Arbor and worked individually with the Michigan coaching staff instead of traveling to play in tournaments like most of his teammates.

“As a senior, I already know what to expect this fall and hopefully, that will carry over,” Pumford said.

Pumford and Rankin are best friends who rely on each other both on and off the course. They became close their freshman year, when they were the only two young players on a senior-laden team.

Pumford had some difficulty qualifying for tournaments his freshman year, and Rankin became someone he could turn to for advice on how to improve his game. The next season, Pumford improved enough to finish second at the Wolverine Invitational.

“We were the only ones who lived in the dorms, and we lived one floor apart,” Rankin said. “We both had issues being away from home, so we shared many of the same problems.”

The two have lived together since their sophomore year and are competitive on and off the course.

“I’m sure if they were playing video games, they would be going hard and trying to beat each other,” Michigan coach Andrew Sapp said. “They keep working hard and competing to get better and better each day.”

Pumford and Rankin’s main focus this season is on a Big Ten title. They helped the Wolverines take a step toward that goal with a first-place finish at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate last weekend. Rankin finished fourth and Pumford placed seventh.

The duo will look to lead Michigan to another win this weekend at the Wolverine Invitational in Ann Arbor.

“We compete to win,” Pumford said. “We want to win a Big Ten Championship and finish well in the NCAAs. It’s time for us as a program to step up and make a name for ourselves.”

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