After playing poorly at the Wolfpack Intercollegiate in Raleigh, North Carolina in early April, freshman Jack Schultz knew exactly what he needed to do before the postseason started for the Michigan men’s golf team.
In the time leading up to this weekend’s Big Ten Championships, Schultz worked on his putting so he could make more ten-footers for par and birdie. More importantly, he made sure to get into the right mentality for the important tournaments in May.
“(I just tried to) play a lot of holes,” Schultz said. “(I was) trying to get into the mindset of ‘this one shot is important’. I just played a bunch, and it really helped me get into that playing state of mind instead of the practicing state of mind.”
In Independence, Minnesota this past weekend, being in that “playing state of mind” clearly helped Schultz turn in a great performance.
Schultz finished fifth individually with a three-over 287, just six strokes off the lead. More impressive than that, he was the lowest freshman finisher, which certainly contributed to him being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year on Tuesday.
Over the course of four rounds, Schultz delivered clutch shots that helped his score as well as his team’s score. In the first round, Schultz’s back-to-back eagles on holes 12 and 13 helped him get under-par. Even more impressive was the fact that he didn’t even need his putter for those eagles.
On both holes, Schultz had a good approach to the green and did the rest of the work with his pitching wedge. On the 12th hole, he made a 45-yard pitch shot and followed on the 13th with a 25-yard pitch shot.
“Speed-wise, I could tell that they were both going right in,” Schultz said. “It helps going from one-over to three-under in two holes.”
After the first round, though, the course got windier and ball flight became harder to control. With conditions tough for the third and fourth rounds, Schultz’s putting work paid off.
“In the wind, it’s going to be a lot of short game because the ball’s blowing everywhere,” Schultz said. “I was able to make the 10-footers for par that helped keep me in there.”
On Saturday and Sunday, Schultz came up with the shots that kept him and his team “in there”. Adding to sophomore Matt Thompson’s three-under round, Schultz eagled his final hole to put himself three strokes off the individual pace and his team into second place overall.
The windy conditions on Sunday caused Schultz to make a few bogies and double bogies. However, he countered them with birdies and strings of pars that helped keep him in position as the low freshman finisher.
Schultz’s play coupled with Thompson’s runner-up finish earned Michigan its best finish ever at the Big Ten Championships — the Wolverines clinched the fourth spot on the weekend.
With the NCAA Regionals coming in a few weeks, Schultz hopes to continue his strong play on the greens.
“Hopefully the confidence in putting drags over because these tournaments in May are what really matter,” Schultz said.