Ball State Men’s Golfers make the most of their individual opportunities

<p>Junior Joey Ranieri tees off Oct. 1, 2018. Ranieri earned the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year Award in 2019. <strong>Jeff Harwell, Photo Provided</strong></p>

Junior Joey Ranieri tees off Oct. 1, 2018. Ranieri earned the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year Award in 2019. Jeff Harwell, Photo Provided

 

Junior Joey Ranieri tied for second at the Oaks GCAA Amateur Sept. 12-13.

Freshman Ali Khan tied for 29th at the HNS Buckeye Amateur Sept. 20.  

Junior Sterling McIlravy finished 12th at the Old Oakland GCAA Amateur Oct. 12-13.

With Ball State Men’s Golf team competitions on hold until next spring, the Cardinals have taken advantage of any chance to prepare for their season.

The Cardinals have had the luxury of competing individually in the form of weekly qualifiers and weekend invitationals in the absence of a team schedule.

Head coach Mike Fleck has given his players chances to compete outside Ball State. Fleck said The Golf Coaches Association of America has organized individual competitions taking place throughout the United States, mainly consisting of collegiate players, and hosted 45 to 90 participants per event.

Fleck indicated he is happy the Cardinals have been virtually unaffected by the current postponement of fall sports. 

“Our team was not broken up a lot,” Fleck said. “We have been very lucky to have face-to-face interaction with one another.” 

Junior Joey Ranieri expressed how fortunate he is to compete this fall. Aside from football, players from men’s golf are the only fall athletes gaining a competitive experience right now. 

“We are lucky to have opportunities to play outside the collegiate season,” Raneri said. “Before COVID-19, we took a lot for granted. Now, we realize the opportunities we have are limited, and we have to take advantage of them.”

Ranieri said competing individually and taking time off from team competition has given the Cardinals a chance to reflect on their individual game and playing style.

“I think without traveling — just the individual events — we have been able to reset our batteries,” Ranieri said. 

Junior Sterling Mcllravy, a recent addition to Ball State’s roster, said individual tournaments allow him to be more mentally sharp on the course. Prior to arriving at Ball State, McIlravy attended Lakes Community College and Kirkwood Community College. 

“It is easier to play as an individual because there is not as much pressure,” McIlravy said. “You are just out there playing, and you are able to be focused and dialed in.” 

Junior Sterling McIlravy squats down to look at the green Sept. 9, 2019. Mcllravy played two seasons of collegiate golf at two different junior colleges before coming to Ball State. Kirkwood Community College Athletics, Photo Provided

Due to COVID-19, players are required to socially distance during their time on the course. McIlravy said it has been emotionally challenging with his teammates absent from his side. 

“Camaraderie has been the biggest difference,” McIlravy said. “You cannot interact with your teammates as you normally would. You do not have teammates around — you cannot celebrate with them.”

Fleck expressed he hopes his players gain a greater perspective on their game during individual matches. McIlravy said he has taken this advice and will implement it in the future. 

“I am always trying to represent what God has given me — my talent,” McIlravy said. “If I can go out and win, that is great, but I like to use a mentality that I never lose — I learn.”

Without a regular practice schedule, it can be tough for a coach to finalize a lineup before the season. However, Fleck said the team’s intrasquad qualifiers that during the week help establish a depth chart. 

Ranieri said the Cardinals’ individual qualifiers typically occur twice per week. The team often goes to Delaware Country Club to play 18 holes. As each week passes, Ranieri said, the battle for positions within Ball State’s lineup grows closer to an all-time high. 

“We are always competing for something,” Ranieri said. “We have some young, hungry guys who want to move up, and we have some older guys who do not want to give up their spots. It is healthy competition that will make us prepared for the spring season.”

Throughout the past few months, Fleck has preached to his players to stay the course and make the most of their weekend tournaments despite the uncertainty of when the Cardinals might compete together next. 

“I told my guys to continue sticking to the process,” Fleck said. “There are good opportunities to travel for individual tournaments over the weekends. Keep getting better, and keep competing.”

Contact Charleston Bowles with comments at clbowles@bsu.edu or on Twitter @cbowles01.

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