MEN'S GOLF: Ball State finishes third in MAC tourney
Team eyes NCAA tournament bid
Ranked No. 30 by GolfWeek, Ball State’s men’s golf team had high expectations coming into the spring season. The Cardinals’ third place finish at the Mid-American Conference Championship on Sunday did not meet those aspirations, and left the team feeling like they have more to prove.
“It’s a little disappointing to be honest,” coach Mike Fleck said. “Coming in we thought we had the talent and experience to come away with this one.”
Ball State started the final round in third, and jockeyed for second throughout the day, before settling behind Toledo and Kent State at 48-over-par.
“[The Longaberger Golf Course] is a championship course,” Fleck said. “You need five guys to play good, solid golf all four rounds to win, and we didn’t get that.”
Kent State won its fifth straight MAC championship shooting 16-over-par as a team, led by junior Taylor Pendrith who topped the individual leader board at 7-under-par.
“[Kent State] was just able to finish rounds better than us,” Fleck said. “They just shot better golf.”
Ball State was lead by junior Tyler Merkel, who finished 3-over. Merkel was named First Team All-MAC after the match.
Seniors Alex Stinson and Joe Gasser were named Second Team all-MAC, and carded 13-over and 20-over-par, respectively.
Ball State’s score was rounded out by fellow seniors Tony Lazzara’s 15-over-par and Brodie Williams’ 28-over-par.
Ball State’s marked up score cards disappointed Fleck, but were a common occurrence throughout weekend.
“We got off to slow starts, and finished poorly,” Fleck said. “When you do that, it’s hard to overcome.Our course management was awful, I saw a lot of mistakes, and it’s hard to cover that up.”
For about two-thirds of the final day of the tournament Ball State looked like it had righted the ship, and would be able cover up its blemishes. But when the Cardinals got within striking distance, they could not capitalize.
“We were in a good spot near the end,” Fleck said. “But we faltered down the stretch, and that’s really disappointing."
Nearly two months ago Ball State opened its anticipated spring season against MAC competition (all teams except for Kent State) in a match-play tournament. There too the Cardinals seemed to let one slip away, and came away with second place.
The senior laden team hopes that this is not their last time playing for Ball State.
“It’s a bittersweet moment because I love all the seniors, and I congratulated them on everything they have done for the program,” Fleck said. “But at the same time, we don’t want this to be it.”
Fleck believes that his team’s body of work over the season is enough to merit a bid to the NCAA tournament. If the coach’s predictions are correct the Cardinals will tee-up again May 17 in the NCAA Central Regional.
“[The MAC Championship] left a sour taste in the guys’ mouths,” Fleck said. “They want to finish on better terms.”
The NCAA selection show will name 81 teams to the tournament Monday at 9 p.m. on ncaa.com, and the team plans to watch the event together. And while they won’t be on the edge of their seats awaiting a bid, there is an excitement buzzing among them.
“We have the talent and the experience to make some waves,” Fleck said.