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Tuesday, July 05, 2022 — Houston, TX

Whitehead finishes fifth at Rice Intercollegiate

By Paul Fitzgerald     2/24/11 6:00pm

Under sunny skies and with an uncharacteristically calm wind at Westwood Golf Club, the golf team posted their best finish of the season thus far.Coming off a disappointing performance at last week's UTSA Oak Hills Invitational that saw the Owls finish their rounds poorly, Rice looked to bounce back strongly at a tournament they have had success at in the past. Rice took the team title in 2010 at their only home event, while Christopher Brown (Brown '10) was able to take the individual title in windy conditions that kept score high.

The 2011 version of the Rice Intercollegiate had a completely different feel, with teams posting low scores due to the favorable conditions. Even the wind direction, coming from the south, made conditions easier, as Westwood tends to play shorter with a south wind. Senior Michael Whitehead felt that the conditions partly eroded the advantage the Owls may have had playing on their home course.

"It probably helped to equalize the field a little bit more," Whitehead said. "Whenever the weather is bad, we know what we have to do to play with the wind, so it definitely cut into our home-course advantage."

While Whitehead may have felt his advantage was partly taken away, it did not seem to hurt his play. The senior from Sugar Land was still able to post a final-round 68 to surge up the leaderboard into a tie for fifth. After starting with a one-over 73, Whitehead led Rice with a second-round 70 to keep the Owls near the top of the leaderboard.

Junior Erik Mayer was able to provide a steadying influence for the team, shooting 72-74-73 to finish in a tie for 23th. Rice was able to count Mayer's score all three rounds, and the Wiess College member could provide a consistent score in the fourth spot for the Owls the rest of the season.

"He can be the glue for us," Head Coach Drew Scott (Wiess '98) said. "He's not going to be the guy to go low, but hopefully his performance is a sign of things to come."

Seniors Tim Pawul and Robert Burrow each contributed strong first rounds with an even-par 72 and one-under 71, respectively. Pawul would go on to finish in a tie for 41st, while Burrow finished in a tie for 55th. Freshman Chris Contreras shot a second-round 71, helping him to a 58th place finish.

While Whitehead has led the Owls all season long, freshman Jeff Wibawa has been a steady contributor as well. While Wibawa did not qualify for the Rice Intercollegiate, his performance as an individual put him in a tie for 11th. Wibawa shot a final-round 70, a round that included a quadruple-bogey, to shoot up the leaderboard. While Coach Scott felt the team could have certainly used Wibawa in the lineup, he believed the experience was just what the freshman needed.

"Everybody can look back and say what if you had him in the lineup .," Coach Scott said. "This week was good for Jeff to reassure himself that he has the talent to finish up high on the leaderboard."

With their home event now behind them, the Owls will take a three-week break before traveling to the Louisiana Tech Bulldog Classic in mid-March. In a departure from the traditional two-day format, the Bulldog Classic is a three-day event, meaning there are no 36-hole days on the first day of the event. Furthermore, Rice has a ton of experience at the course, Squire Creek in Choudrant, Louisiana, that could aid them at the event.

"Regardless of who we take, we are going to have experience there," Whitehead said. "Course knowledge is huge, as you could see at Westwood, where we posted our highest finish of the year. Experience can help us plan our misses, which is huge for us because we need to minimize our mistakes if we want to finish well.

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