The common theme surrounding the men's golf team this fall season has been starting off slow, but finishing strong. Despite the second-lowest team score in the third round at the Xavier Renaissance Invitational in Fort Myers, Fla., Ball State finished sixth out of 12 teams. The Cardinals posted a team-combined score of 851, 19 strokes behind winner Indiana University.
"Overall we did a lot of good things," coach Mike Fleck said. "It's not that we played poorly, but that we didn't get the low scores relative to the rest of the field. Over the last 36 holes of the tournament, we were as good as any team scoring wise. If we would have gotten a better first round score, we would have finished much better."
Fleck says the competition played a role in where Ball State finished. Golfing against nationally known teams, such as Indiana and Penn State University, made the field much more difficult. Fleck knows it was the toughest competition his players have faced since the first tournament on Sept. 12. Indiana and Penn State finished first and second, respectively.
"Obviously the field was pretty good," Fleck said. "It was the second best field all season other than the Wolf Run Intercollegiate. There was a solid mix of national teams and other teams."
The par-72, 7,026-yard course invitational contained two other Mid-American Conference teams. Miami University beat Ball State by one stroke, shooting a score of 850. Bowling Green State University finished in last place with a score of 880.
Junior Eric Steger tied for fifth individually out of 65 competitors. Steger shot a 75, 64, 65 for a score of 204, which put him 12 under par.
"We started off slow and put ourselves under the shovel again," Steger said. "The last two rounds, however, were different because we played well. Overall, it wasn't too bad of a tournament though."
Because the Renaissance Invitational concludes Ball State's fall season, Fleck hopes the coming months will allow his players to rest and prepare for the spring schedule.
"I am very optimistic looking forward to the spring season," Fleck said. "We have definitely identified a lot of things this season. We had a lot of question marks back in August, but we have also answered a lot, especially with the help from our freshman class. In addition, Steger had one of the better fall seasons I have seen since I've been coaching. And, Ross Cosat has been Ross Cosat: Mr. Consistent."
Steger hopes to relax and finish the semester, while preparing for the spring.
"We had a productive season," Steger said. "We'll head into the winter expecting great things to come. We just need to sit down and see where we can improve."
Despite having only one senior golfer, Fleck has been pleased with the depth on his roster.
"We have six or seven guys that have contributed and will continue to work and get better this winter," Fleck said. "I will identify some areas to work on and expect that these guys prepare. Just like any other sport, you constantly have to work to get better. And we will be doing anything and everything to prepare and become a better team."