Golf unable to sustain early momentum, finishes 10th
Despite solid play over the first two rounds of the Jim West Intercollegiate, the Rice University golf team was unable to carry that momentum to a high finish. While a disappointing final round left the Owls' in 10th place, there were still positive signs moving forward.
The Owls started off the event's first round with a cumulative team score of 298, leaving them in eighth place in the 12-team event. Freshmen Tommy Economou and Joe Beck and junior Brock Wilson paced Rice with matching 74s. Wilson went on to finish the event with back-to-back rounds of four-over to finish in a tie for 50th.
Rice came back strong in the second round of the Jim West, scoring a cumulative 294, its best score of the event. Economou led the Owls with a one-under 71 on his 19th birthday, while fellow freshman Ryan Benevides posted a one-over 73. Sophomore Jeff Wibawa cited the team's preparation as the main cause for its solid start.
"We got off to a solid start because we were prepared to compete this week," Wibawa said. "We knew it was a field that we could beat, and we wanted to come out and play golf like we knew we could."
Looking to move up the leaderboard, Rice instead faltered in the event's final round, carding a 300. Wibawa came back strong, firing a 71 after scoring 76-74 over the first two rounds to finish in a tie for 32nd. Despite some admittedly poor play over the spring season, Wibawa siad he feels as if he's getting back on track.
"I've been struggling with my ball striking and my putting for a while now, and it's been showing in my results, but I've worked hard, and now I'm a lot closer to where I need to be," Wibawa said. "It's been a process to get it back both technically and mentally, but I'm plugging along and should be ready for our last two tournaments."
While the team is certainly encouraged by Wibawa's strong final round, Economou's play also has the team excited. The California native's final-round 74 left him in a tie for 18th, his first top-20 finish of his career, a fact not lost upon Head Coach Justin Emil.
"Tommy has been playing really well since our third tournament of the spring," Emil said. "We've been working on some mental things, and he's really developing some confidence."
With the team starting to gather some momentum, it now heads to the Woodlands All-American Intercollegiate, a tournament with a field as daunting as its name. Participants at the event include top-20 teams the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M, among others, but Rice will have to ignore its opponents and concentrate on its own game.
"Focus on the shot in front of you; that'll be my speech from here on out," Emil said. "Focus on our process and routine, and if we can do all that, we'll be successful."
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