Golf ends season on sour note
The golf team's final event concluded much like their season did: disappointingly. The Owls jumped out to a hot start at the Conference USA tournament last month, but a poor second round meant the team would record a below-expected finish for the third straight year. The C-USA Tournament was held at the Red Tail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla. and hosted by the University of Central Florida. The Owls posted a last-place finish at the 2008 C-USA Tournament, but headed into this year's tournament with optimism over their prospects.
"We've had a lot more success this year than in year's past," Head Coach Drew Scott (Wiess '98) said prior to the three-day event. "We've played a lot of teams in the conference, and we're not far behind those guys, so it's definitely within reach."
Rice's first round proved Scott correct, as the Owls shot a 292 (+4) to put themselves three shots out of fourth place after the first day. Sophomore Michael Whitehead's opening-round 69 carried the Owls, as Whitehead was only one shot out of a tie for first place. Whitehead would cool off, though, finishing the tournament in 16th place with an even par 216.
The Owls stumbled in the second round, however, shooting 300 (+12), a score that left them in eighth place heading into the final round. Whitehead, junior Chris Brown and sophomore Robert Burrow all shot 74 (+2). Brown would finish in a tie for 17th, one shot behind Whitehead, while Burrow finished in a tie for 29th after shooting a 222 (+6).
With their NCAA Tournament prospects bleak - the Owls needed to win the event to qualify - the team shot a final-round 293 (+5) to finish where they started the round, in eighth place. Brown's 72 (E) led the Owls in the third round.
Rice finished seven shots back of cross-town rival University of Houston. Host UCF won the event by shooting a three-round cumulative score of 846 to finish six strokes ahead of Southern Methodist University. Simon Ward and Blayne Barber, both of UCF, finished first and second, respectively, shooting 205 and 206 to distance themselves from the remainder of the field.
With the C-USA Tournament completed, the team's season is now complete. The Owls are now able to look back and reflect on what was an up-and-down season. The season included a third-place finish at the Pacific Invitational, which boasted one of the strongest fields Rice faced all year, and a second-place finish at the Rice Intercollegiate, the team's home event. The Owls followed up the Rice Intercollegiate with a strong performance at the Louisiana Classics.
However, a string of four substandard performances to end the season left the squad unsatisfied as they look towards the 2009-'10 season, according to Scott.
"We didn't get it done in the big events this year," Scott said. "The end of the year left a bitter taste in our mouths, and I know the guys are going to work hard over the summer."
The Owls lose seniors Kyle Kelley and Erik Peterson, who will be replaced by two recruits who come to Rice with high expectations. Jade Scott, the 36th-ranked amateur in the country, will be expected to contribute during his freshman year. The team will be lead by Brown and injured junior Michael Buttacavoli, who had the team's lowest scoring average in the 11 rounds he played in. Whitehead and Burrow will also contribute, as the pair was the only two to play in every tournament.
With a similar schedule lined up, the Owls head into the 2009-'10 season with high expectations.
"We have five experienced players coming back and some youngsters with a lot of potential," Scott said. "The sky's the limit for our team next year.
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