PREVIEW: Ball State men's golf prepares for MAC Championships
Junior Johnny Watts thinks Ball State men's golf can pull off an upset at the Mid-American Conference Championships this weekend.
Kent State, the nation's 11th-best team according to Golfweek.com, is ranked well above No. 136 Ball State, but Watts said the Cardinals have the potential to close the gap.
“They're one of the top teams in the country," Watts said. "I think we have some of the best talent in the MAC on our team and if we all play to our potential I think we can knock them off for sure.”
This year's MAC Championships will be held at The Virtues Golf Club in Nashport, Ohio.
“It’s a really, really neat course," Watts said. "Kind of goes through the woods and it’s got some really cool views. I think it’s going to be a challenge — the weather’s not supposed to be the greatest so it’ll be a grind out there.”
“It’s a pretty demanding golf course from start to finish," Fleck said. "The finishing holes I know on the backside, it’s important to have a good stretch of play there. It seems like it always comes down to Par 5 scoring.”
The Virtues features four Par 5 holes including the 10th, which is where Ball State's five golfers tee off Friday.
Junior Michael VanDeventer agrees that Kent State is the favorite but the rest of the field can't be overlooked.
“Any team’s capable of having a good week and winning," VanDeventer said. "Kent’s certainly played well this year but that doesn’t guarantee they’re going to win. Anybody can have a hot week and upset them."
Most of the Cardinals' tournaments have been three rounds (their first tournament of the fall was shortened to two rounds), but the MAC Championships are a three-day, four-round event. Head coach Mike Fleck said Ball State just has to worry about keeping its play consistent. Watts, for example, has the lowest average score for the Cardinals this season with a 73.17 and led the Cardinals with a +18 in last weekend's Robert Kepler Invitational in Columbus, Ohio.
“You have to take care of your business first and foremost and know your teammates are out there trying to do the same thing," Fleck said.
Part of staying consistent, VanDeventer said, is correcting mistakes from previous tournaments. VanDeventer finished tied for first at the Earl Yestingsmeier Memorial Invitational April 14-15 by finishing two-under-par at the Delaware Country Club in Muncie.
“it’s just continuing to identify weaknesses or things we need to work on," VanDeventer said. "We always focus on those during our practice time.”
Another complicating factor is the timing of the MAC Championships — finals begin next week.
“We’re kind of used to it," Fleck said. "Sometimes the schedule falls where the championship’s during finals week, this year it happens to be the week in front of finals. They just have to be good with managing their time and making sure everything is in place.”
Ball State's five golfers — redshirt sophomore Colin Proctor, junior Michael Makris, sophomore Timothy Wiseman, VanDeventer and Watts start teeing off 8 a.m. Friday. The Cardinals begin their round on the 10th hole.