MEN'S GOLF: Ball State takes fifth in Golfweek Conference Challenge
Stinson hits low round of 69 in first day of meet
Tuesday marked the final round of the three-day Golfweek Conference Challenge in Burlington, Iowa. The event included 15 teams from 15 different conferences, ensuring a wide range of talent.
This was Ball State's second event of the fall season, after placing seventh in its first at the Northern Intercollegiate last week. The team finished up with a collective score of 878 (289-292-297), 14-over-par, good enough for fifth place.
The 878 score shaved 38 strokes off of the team's score from the Intercollegiate. And even though it is nearly impossible to compare scoring at two different courses, coach Mike Fleck was able to draw positives out of the lower score.
"I thought the team collectively played better, and played good, solid golf especially on the first day," Fleck said.
Senior Alex Stinson shot a career best 69 on day one, including four straight birdies on the front-nine, and was tied for third overall in the individual leader board. His score helped propel Ball State into second place for the day.
Fleck said the teams that began early on the second day had an advantage because they played in better conditions. Ball State was forced to deal with worse weather conditions because of later tee times and fell to fourth place following the end of the second round.
Only junior Tyler Merkel and senior Brodie Williams were able to get into any sort of rhythm. Merkel, after double-bogeying his first hole, rattled off three straight birdies, and ended up posting his best round of the event going two-under-par. He moved himself up in the individual board from ninth to sixth.
Williams also posted his best score of the event with a 73, one-over-par. Williams shot nine consecutive pars on the front-nine.
On the last day of the event the Cardinals saw themselves fall down to fifth place with their worst round.
When Ball State finished its round, fourth place seemed like a lock, but Iowa surged at the end of its round and snatched the spot from Ball State.
The number one on the team wrapped up his the event with a 71 in the final round, bringing his total score to a 213 (72-70-71). His scorecard logged in at tie for fourth at the event, just six strokes behind the individual winner.
Jace Long led a stout Missouri line-up that won its second event of the year, and lengthened its streak of not trailing after a round to six. Long has the same streak as an individual and raised his second trophy of the year.
Stinson pulled out a tie for 15th after cooling down in his second and third rounds, and he finished at 220 (69-75-76). Williams followed him in a tie for 21st with a 222 (75-73-74).
Ball State's top-finisher in its first tournament senior Joe Gasser finished in tie for 24th with a 223 (73-74-76). And in his first event competing as a part of the team freshman James Blackwell finished with a 232 (75-78-79) sufficient for a tie for 57th.
One of the points that looked promising for the Cardinals was their play on the par-fives.
"Par-fives are scoring holes, so your mentality is a little different on them," Fleck said.
Ball State did just that and finished eight-under on holes two, four, 10 and 18. The team of five only had nine bogeys through the three rounds on these holes despite not putting well, Fleck said.
The Cardinals hope to continue that success to the rest of the game in the next tournament on Oct. 8 with the Firestone Invitational hosted by Akron.