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Thursday, August 18, 2022 — Houston, TX

Golf can't hold up strong start in Arlington, finishes in eighth place

By Paul Fitzgerald     9/23/10 7:00pm

Despite posting the best one-round score of any team during the Head Coach Drew Scott (Wiess '98) era, the golf team fell short of converting that round into a top finish, posting an eighth-place finish at the UTA/Waterchase Invitational in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday. Senior Michael Whitehead led Rice throughout three rounds en route to a tie for fifth place. Whitehead, who qualified for the prestigious U.S. Amateur Tournament over the summer, finished at par or under all three rounds, and his cumulative score of 213 left him only four shots back of the event's individual champion, Derek Plucienski of the University of North Texas.

Freshman Jeff Wibawa also provided a strong contribution for the Owls, as the California native used his consistent play to finish in a tie for 18th. Wibawa continued his stellar play after finishing the last tournament with a third-round 74.

Scott felt the freshman's steady play has been extremely beneficial to the Owls thus far.

"He's a really consistent player that never really gets too high or too low," Scott said. "He's been a huge blessing, and I know he's hungry for more."

Junior Robert Burrow provided Rice with a second-round 68 sandwiched between two rounds of 76. Burrow, the team leader in eagles with two on the year, finished in a tie for 30th with a score of 220.

Junior Erik Mayer shot a three-round score of 227 to finish in a tie for 62nd, while sophomore Brock Wilson's 229 left him in a tie for 74th. The Owls' three-round score of 874 left them in eighth place among a 19-team field. While the team could not defend its tournament title from the previous fall, they were able to reveal some promise for the remainder of the fall season and the entire spring campaign.

After losing a strong senior class that featured Christopher Brown (Baker '10) and Michael Buttacavoli (Martel '10), the golf team was not sure what type of season would be in store for them. After two tournaments, however, it is clear that this team has the ability to make it to postseason play for the second consecutive year.

Whitehead has played well for the Owls thus far, and expectations are high the rest of the way for the senior. Wibawa's play has been a big help for Rice, as the transition to collegiate golf can cause problems for even the best junior golfers. Yet the Owls have witnessed seasons of solid play from newcomers in the past two years.

While Burrow's play has been spotty this season, the junior appears to be on the right track following an injury over the summer. Burrow shot the ball well throughout three rounds while failing to close his rounds effectively on Tuesday.

Throughout the remainder of the fall, the Owls will crave consistency out of the bottom two spots of their lineup. Mayer, Wilson and freshman Chris Contreras will jockey for playing time, as will senior Tim Pawul and junior Ben Thorseth. If Rice is able to get solid contributions from the remainder of their lineup, they will be well on their way to another postseason berth.

With a difficult schedule on the horizon for the Owls, they know they have to improve over the next few weeks and throughout the season to experience success.

"We haven't plateaued yet, but we've got to keep making progress every week," Scott said. "We have a long way to go, and we made progress this past week, but we have got to continue to get better."

The Owls will be put to the test in October when they travel to Louisiana to play in the Squire Creek Invitational, hosted by Louisiana Tech University. The field is sure to feature some strong teams, and Rice should be able to conjure some good memories from last season's fourth-place finish at the Squire Creek Country Club.

Following Squire Creek, the team will continue on to Durham, N.C., to play the elite field at Duke University's Rod Myers Invitational. The fall's final three events should provide Rice with a very strong barometer of where they stand.

The events will provide the Owls with the opportunity to improve their ranking before they head into spring's demanding schedule, according to Whitehead.

"We've exceeded my expectations thus far, and I've been excited with how Burrow and Jeff are playing," Whitehead said. "We've got some big tournaments coming up, and we obviously need to improve and continue to make progress in the right direction. We have the potential to go low this year with the players we've got, so I'm excited about the upside we've shown so far.

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