Entering the final round of the Pinehurst Intercollegiate trailing by four shots to VCU and Old Dominion, Ball State found itself sweeping the team and individual titles Tuesday.
Junior Tyler Merkel, who was having an up-and-down week at the Pinehurst Resort, grabbed a one-stroke win over VCU’s Adam Ball to claim the individual title.
“It’s pretty gratifying on both levels [to win both the team and individual competition],” coach Mike Fleck said.
Putting a final round together that allowed Ball State to win came from having experience playing together and playing under pressure.
Fleck said that experience has led his team to not get rattled and play on the same page whether things are going well or not.
“If things are going well, they seem to take the same approach,” he said. “It’s a pretty level group. They know what to do and how to react.”
Merkel didn’t start off each day of the Pinehurst Intercollegiate well. In the first five holes of each round, he shot a score of 6 over par. But his experience, and familiarity with the course, allowed him to keep solid play and get the win.
Last season, Merkel finished second at the same event.
“He doesn’t get too excited one way or another,” Fleck said. “He knows what he’s capable of doing. Even though he had a shaky start, his confidence is growing in his game that he can make those up with good shots.”
But Merkel wasn’t the only Ball State golfer that played well during the tournament. Senior Tony Lazzara finished in fourth, six shots behind Merkel. Fleck said Lazzara’s play in the final round helped push Ball State to capture the win in the team competition.
“He was huge today for us,” Fleck said. “To finish the way he did in the final round was the difference maker. It just shows the trust these guys have in each other. Several of these guys on this team are capable of stepping up and helping their teammates.”