Andrew Mishler

Senior Brodie Williams' three-year metamorphosis is complete. He's ready to take a spot near the top of the Ball State men's golf lineup.

At least his coach, Mike Fleck, thinks so.

"[Brodie] is a very talented golfer and prior to last year, he would put a tremendous amount of pressure on himself to play great," Fleck said. "As he has progressed, so has his approach on an everyday basis."

Williams has had an interesting career up to this point. In his first three seasons, he never managed to break into the main lineup for tournaments, instead having to defer to the five golfers in front of him.

But in that time, his game rapidly improved. He went from 77.00 18-hole stroke average as a freshman to a 74.94 average as a junior.

In that time, only former teammate TJ Carpenter improved his average more.

"He has a strong work ethic and continues to gain confidence with every competitive experience," Fleck said. "I think his expectations are very similar to the past, but he is more prepared and more understanding of what it takes to be productive at this level for the team."

Following his win in the IGA Public Links Championship this summer, Williams is projected to be Ball State's No. 2 golfer this season.

Only junior Tyler Merkel stands in front of him.

Merkel recorded a team-best 73.47 average last season. And just like last season, the team will lean on him to produce the best rounds every tournament.

"I could not ask for more from Tyler Merkel as a member of the golf program," Fleck said. "Tyler will continue to do what he does as we look to him for leadership and strong play this year. He is one of the top players in our conference, in the region and on a national level and will be our No. 1 as we head into the 2012-13 year."

With Merkel and Williams likely to open the season as Ball State's top two golfers, the other three spots in the lineup are muddled.

Seniors Joe Gasser, Alex Stinson and Tony Lazzara are expected to fill out those spots. But the order in which they play in is a tossup.

Only .12 of a stroke separated the three players' averages for 2011-12. Gasser and Lazzara both averaged a 75.30, while Stinson finished with a 75.42.

Junior Connor O'Neal and sophomores Al Jennings, Zach Yinger and Franklin Crist could also be in the mix to contribute.

Fleck also said he has brought in two freshmen in Tyler Ostrom and James Blackwell who he thinks will be "hungry to get the chance to prove themselves and contribute any way they can."

Fleck indicated Yinger could have an early edge on his competition after qualifying for the United States Amateur.

"I am sure that has given him confidence as we approach the fall season," Fleck said.

No matter how the lineup shakes out, the core players on the team - one junior and four seniors - creates an experience squad for Fleck. One of the most experienced he's ever had in more than a decade of coaching at Ball State.

"We are a very experienced group for the most part but that does not guarantee us anything as it relates to success," Fleck said. "The experience will be valuable as we navigate through one of the most challenging schedules our program has seen, but at the end of the day, each individual will have to do their part to help contribute to the
success of the program."