The Michigan men’s golf team doesn’t get many chances to defend its home turf. The Wolverines didn’t even host a single tournament in Ann Arbor last year because of conflicts with the football team’s schedule.
But Michigan was finally able to use its home-course advantage this weekend to win the 16-team Wolverine Invitational. The Wolverines finished two strokes ahead of UC-Davis in the 54-hole tournament at the U-M Golf Course.
Michigan defeated four teams in Golfweek’s top 25, including No. 7 Iowa and No. 9 California. The Wolverines, who were ranked 26th going into the weekend, seem poised to break into the top 25 for the first time in recent memory.
“It’s a great start for us, but the season’s a long way from being over,” Michigan coach Andrew Sapp said.
Michigan’s excellent first round ended up making the difference. Led by senior co-captain Nick Pumford’s five-under-par 66, Michigan got off to a three-stroke lead early Saturday. Pumford recorded seven birdies on the day after bogeying two of the first four holes.
UC-Davis gained a stroke on Michigan in Saturday’s second round, through the Wolverines shot a school-record nine-under par.
“I was really shocked when we shot nine-under, and UC-Davis actually beat us and made up some ground,” Sapp said. “I knew it was going to be a tough fight (in the final round).”
Both teams shot even par yesterday, allowing Michigan to hold on for the win.
“We proved a lot to ourselves today,” said senior co-captain Bill Rankin, who didn’t have any three putts and hit almost every green in regulation Sunday. “We didn’t have our best stuff, and we still beat some of the best teams in the country. I’m just really proud of the guys for hanging in there and doing so well.”
Pumford shot four-under par for the weekend to tie for sixth. Despite holding the individual lead entering Sunday, Pumford couldn’t best UC-Davis’s Ramie Sprinkling, the eventual tournament champion.
Pumford putted well for most of the weekend but struggled on the back nine yesterday. His second shot on the par-five 11th hole went under a tree, but he hit a spectacular punch shot to save par. On 15, Pumford scrambled after hitting his tee shot near a large oak to save another par.
But bogeys on 12 and 17 allowed Sprinkling, who birdied three holes on the back nine after shooting one-over par on the front, to pull away.
“I played unbelievably Saturday,” Pumford said. “I hit a lot of good shots and made a lot of putts. (Yesterday) was a struggle. But it’s good to get the team win, that’s the most important.”
Every Michigan starter finished in the top 25. Rankin tied for 11th while junior Ross Millman and sophomore Alexander Sitompul tied for 16th. Sophomore Lion Kim tied for 22nd.