Golf 10th at C-USA tournament, Scott to leave
While they did not know it at the time, the golf team finished a disappointing season with a poor performance at the Conference USA Tournament in Drew Scott's final event as head coach.
The Owls hurt themselves from the start, shooting a cumulative 295 in the first round at Texarkana Country Club. Their first round score left them in 10th place. As has been the case for much of the year, senior Michael Whitehead led Rice with a two-under 70.
Needing a low round to shoot up the leaderboard, Rice could not come through on the third day of the competition, shooting a 297 that kept them in 10th place at the end of the meet. Wibawa went low, shooting a 69 that left him in a tie for 13th. Scott (Wiess '98) expects Wibawa to continue providing strong performances over the next three years.
"He's going to know what it takes to excel like Michael did because he saw it firsthand," Scott said. "He's going to come back and be a better player next year."
While Wibawa provided a strong final round for the Owls, Whitehead was unable to do the same. The Sugar Land native went into his 17th hole of the day, a par-five, looking to make a birdie and shoot into the top 10. Instead, a poor second shot that ended in the water also ended Whitehead's bid for a ninth top-10 finish. The senior had to settle for a 26th place finish.
In what has been an issue for much of the season, Rice was unable to get much help from the remainder of their lineup. Freshman Chris Contreras finished in 44th, while junior Erik Mayer finished in a tie for 48th. Sophomore Brock Wilson finished in 54th. While Rice struggled to get contributions from the bottom of their lineup, those issues will become even more important next season. With Whitehead graduating, Scott believes the Owls will have to step up next season.
"It will be tough to replace Michael, so [the lineup] will definitely be up for grabs," Scott said. "The expectations will be whatever they make them."
One person who will not be around next season is Scott. The head of the program for the past six seasons, Scott oversaw a successful era in which the Owls returned to the postseason last year for the first time in 13 years. While the four All-C-USA selections and four All-Freshman C-USA selections during his tenure speak to Scott's ability as a coach, he cited the improved alumni involvement as what he will remember most about his time.
"We've had a lot of success the past couple years, but I'm really happy with the fact that we have so many former golfers that are part of the alumni group," Scott said. "It's been a feather in my cap."
Scott will move to Oregon to live with his wife, who is the head coach of the women's golf team at the University of Oregon. Another member of the golf program who will not be back next year is graduating senior Whitehead, who was named C-USA's Golfer of the Year. Before he goes, however, Whitehead still has business to take care of at the NCAA Regionals in Colorado on May 19, to which Scott will accompany and coach him. While Whitehead, who has posted eight top-10s, including three runner-up finishes and one tournament title, obviously wants to win, he recognizes the bigger picture as he looks to become a professional golfer.
"I'm going in with the expectation of winning," Whitehead said. "But at the end of the day, it's about getting better, and that's a continual process for me."
More from The Rice Thresher
On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
Five Owls will be heading to next week’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, after qualifying at the NCAA West Preliminaries which ran May 25 through 28. Headlining the meet for Rice was sophomore distance-runner Grace Forbes, who took first place in the 10,000 meters for the second consecutive year. Forbes will be joined in Eugene, Ore., by sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, junior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, senior thrower James McNaney and sophomore vaulter Alex Slinkman. Jon Warren, head coach of the men’s track and field program, said that he was impressed not only by the five qualifiers, but by all 13 Owls who participated over the course of the week in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Conference USA outdoor track and field championships saw Rice’s men’s team place third with 121 points — their best conference championship performance since 2005 — and the women’s team place fifth with 88 points. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, he was proud to see the work his team put in all season be on full display at the meet.