MEN'S GOLF: Ball State ready to open season
Cardinals rely on youth in first tournament
Earlier this fall, coach Mike Fleck made it clear that one of his main goals for the Ball State men's golf team this season was to find a consistent lineup. As the team opens its 2010 season this Saturday, Fleck has put his faith in the youth of team to find that consistency.
He came to a decision on a five-player lineup that will include three sophomores and one freshman for the Wolf Run Intercollegiate at the Wolf Run Club in Zionsville, Ind.
Senior and co-captain Eric Steger is the leader of the squad. The three sophomores joining him will be Joe Gasser, Tony Lazzara and Alex Stinson. Freshman Tyler Merkel rounds out the quintet.
An eight-round qualifier was held this summer to determine each spot in the opening lineup. Fleck said that Steger's past success as well as his play this summer exempted him into the first tournament. For the other four spots, it was fair game among the remaining 10 players on the roster.
While the opening lineup is young, Fleck expressed complete confidence in each player.
"With Joe and Alex and Tony, all of those guys got experience last year, and a couple of them got pretty extensive experience playing in multiple events," Fleck said. "Tyler Merkel has come in and done a tremendous job. He dominated in the summer qualifier to earn the second spot [in the lineup]. So I'm excited that we've got some young guys that got in there and earned the spots and I'm kind of anxious to see how we do."
Gasser carries the most experience in the lineup outside of Steger, competing in nine tournaments last year. He ended the season with one top-10 and two top-20 finishes. Stinson and Lazzara competed in five and four meets in 2009-10, respectively.
Even with the lineup for Wolf Run Intercollegiate set, Fleck said that no player should be considered as a lock for a spot moving forward.
"Looking at what we've done over the course of the first couple of weeks, I think Tyler Merkel has really established himself as one of the guys that everybody will be chasing," Fleck said. "The really nice thing about [the competition] anybody can step up and play well and earn a spot. Now the key is to take that competitiveness to the next level on the road and do well in these tournaments."
To earn some high finishes in the fall tournaments, Gasser said that no matter who is competing in the lineup, the team will rely heavily on Steger's leadership for guidance.
"He's got a lot of experience, and that's good to have from a senior leader," Gasser said. "He's played in several big tournaments, and I consider this one of our biggest tournaments in the fall, so it's good to ask him a few questions on how to handle a few certain situations."
Fleck said that the summer competition should only serve to help Ball State this season.
"I think all of these guys play enough tournament golf throughout the summer that playing in these tournaments really should be like playing in any other event," he said. "But obviously now, instead of playing as an individual representing yourself, now you're playing representing Ball State."