Record-breaking performance brightens Golf's poor fall slate
It’s been a semester of swinging and missing for golf as they’ve placed in the bottom half of all but one invitational they’ve competed at. Golf started off the fall slate of tournaments with two average performances at the Argent Financial Classic, finishing tenth out of 16 teams (+6), and finishing 15th out of 22 teams (+22) at the Mark Simpson Colorado Invitational.
The team wrote a different narrative earlier this month with a record-breaking performance at the Grier Jones Shocker Invitational in Newton, Kan. hosted by Wichita State University. The team placed third overall and shot a final 17 under par, a new school record. Graduate student golfer Jay Kirchdorfer, who led the Owls with a second place finish at the Grier Jones Shocker Invitational, said that the tournament was a turning point of the fall season.
“The Wichita State event was a critical moment for us in the season,” Kirchdorfer said. “After two mediocre events to start the year, it was important for us to piece a good event together and move things in the right direction. We’ve seen quite a bit of good golf from our team at home when preparing, so it was exciting to see all the hard work come to fruition.”
Kirchdorfer opened up the tournament shooting a 68 in round one and a 67 in round two, with the second day setting a new career-best for a round. His two-day performance was enough to put him in at the top of the leaderboard in a five-way-tie at nine under par. Additionally, both his -9 performance and score of 135 tied the school record through 36 holes. On day three, Kirchdorfer continued his hot streak, shooting a 69, which was good for second place, four strokes off the winner.
“Jay [Kirchdorfer] has been solid the entire fall,” head coach Justin Emil said. “He’s a strong team leader and is under par almost every round.”
Other notable performances for the Owls that made the top-50 included junior Raghav Chugh who tied for 11th-place at six-under par, sophomore Lukas Boandl who tied for 27th at one-under par and freshman Jaivir Pande who tied for 40th at three-over par.
Kirchdorfer was pleased with the overall team performance, especially against strong competition.
“Flipping the script and breaking a team scoring record was exactly what we needed to build momentum for our last fall event,” Kirchdorfer said. “I think we’ve just scratched the surface regarding what this group can accomplish.”
Golf then played their final tournament of the fall season this last weekend at the Steelwood Collegiate Invitational. Traveling to Loxley, Ala., the Owls finished last place in the tournament.
Prior to the Invitational, Kirchdorfer said that a strong performance in Alabama would be a great momentum boost looking forward to the spring season.
“I’d love to see us finish the fall with a strong finish in Alabama,” Kirchdorfer said. “The tournament has a great field with some of the top college players in the country. I think this event is an opportunity to show how high our ceiling is against some solid teams.”
However, the team failed to finish strongly as the best Owl finishes were a 26th place finish by freshman Jaivir Pande, who shot a 75 at three-over par, and a 34th place finish by freshman Braeden Hoyt who fired a 72 at five-over par. The rest of the team placed below 60th place in the tournament.
When the team returns in January, they will enter the spring season preparing for their first American Athletic Conference Championships and for the NCAA Regional and National tournaments.
The Owls return multiple All-Conference athletes from last year where they placed sixth in the Conference USA Championship tournament. Junior Chugh who ended last season named First Team All-C-USA and Kirchdorfer, who earned Third Team recognition, lead the way for the Owls. Other notable returners include reigning sophomore Lucas Boandl, C-USA All Freshman team and seniors Blake Benson and Rodrigo Martin. According to Emil, the team showed what they were capable of at Wichita State earlier this month.
“Our goal this season is to make the NCAA tournament,” Emil said. “We got off to a slow start in our first two events this fall, but showed what we are capable of a few weeks ago in Kansas. The depth we have this year is a strength and we’ll continue to leverage that as we continue to compete in the spring.”
Golf opens up their spring schedule on February 13-14 in Montgomery, TX at the Bentwater Classic at the Bentwater Country Club.
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