It had been 11 months since the last time they took the course, but the Cardinals were thrilled to get back out there in Florida.
Ball State Men’s Golf participated in the Earl Yestingsmeier Match Play Feb. 8-9 for its first competition this season and its first since March 7-8, 2020, before COVID-19 canceled the team’s 2020 spring season.
“It was exciting to finally have the opportunity,” head coach Mike Fleck said. “With such a long layoff, it was fun to watch our guys play and compete.”
The Cardinals took the course against Drake and Evansville Feb. 8, and split both matches, defeating the Aces 4.5-1.5 while falling to the Bulldogs 4-2.
Senior Jack Cunningham, redshirt senior Tyler Green, junior Sterling Mcllravy and sophomore Evan Bone all picked up wins against Evansville. Junior Joey Raneri also tied his match. Cunningham and Green were the only Cardinals notching victories against Drake, and Fleck believes one aspect of this match hurt them in the end.
“The short game was a struggle,” Fleck said. “We played good in the center but not in the other areas. We just have to keep harpering away at our drills”
However, the Cardinals bounced back Tuesday with a 3.5-2.5 win over DePaul, giving them a share of second place with Drake. UConn took home first place with three total points.
The story of the invitational was Green, who capped off his undefeated stretch with a 4&3 win against DePaul. Green secured victory before the final hole in all three of his matches — the only Cardinal to do so over both days. Fleck said Green’s laser focus played a huge part of his success throughout the invitational.
Making his Cardinal debut, Mcllravy finished with a 2-1 record over the two-day span. He won 4&3 against Evansville and 5&4 against DePaul, and his win against DePaul was the margin of victory of any Cardinal golfer in the invitational.
Despite falling short of first place, Fleck said, he saw plenty of promising moments throughout both days of action. He believes every player across the board competed at a high level and held his own.
“Cunningham played super solid,” Fleck said. “He fought all the way until the end. The other guys looked solid. We just have to continue to build toughness with drill work. I saw a lot of fight, especially when guys were down, so that can make us even stronger in the environment.”
The Cardinals will return to the course March 7, when they participate in the SMU Trinity Forest Invitational in Dallas.