MEN'S GOLF: Ball State wins MAC Match Play event
Merkel goes perfect 3-0 in matches through two-day tournament
Perhaps no Ball State sports program benefited more from favorable weather in the last few weeks than the men's and women's golf teams. That point was proven on Monday and Tuesday by the former.
Ball State took home the championship title in the Mid-American Match Play tournament played at Lake Jovita South Course in Florida with a 3.5-2.5 win over Eastern Michigan in the final match.
"The thing I'm most proud of is the collective effort," coach Mike Fleck said. "All of the guys contributed throughout the match and played well, so that was very positive. And we played good golf."
Warm temperatures throughout January gave Ball State the unusual chance to practice outside leading up to the spring season opener.
The opportunity to play on natural grass and shake off any rust from November and December transferred to the team's play in the tournament, especially for sophomore Tyler Merkel. The team's No. 1 player won all three of his matches through the two-day contest.
Fleck said the benefits from practicing outside may have made the difference for Ball State in the tournament.
"Coming off the winter break, you just never know what you're going to get," he said. "The opportunity for us to get out a little bit the previous two weeks with mild weather [helped]. The guys played pretty solid."
Ball State owned the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and kept the title as the best MAC team by its end, defeating Ohio, Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan in its rise to the event championship.
Juniors Tony Lazzara, Joe Gasser and Brodie Williams finished positively with 2-1 records in their three matches. Junior Alex Stinson ended his series 1-1-1, and senior TJ Carpenter went 1-2.
"All the guys impressed me," Fleck said. "Brodie Williams did a great job in our sixth spot. Obviously Tyler Merkel did his part, winning all three of his matches against the No. 1 players from the other teams. That was pretty good as well."
Ball State will return to practice for another month until its next match, the Pinehurst Intercollegiate, on March 10-11 in Pinehurst, N.C.
For Fleck, the team's season has begun in one of the best ways he could have imagined.
"We couldn't have asked for much more," he said. "We were just hopeful, from my perspective, to come down here and compete. Like I said, match play is a little different and anything can happen, but for us to put ourselves in a position to win and then pull it out today, I'm pretty proud of our guys."