Men's preview: Horizon League
If Cleveland State’s performance on the front nine at last season’s NCAA Southwest Regional was any indication, one might have expected the Vikings’ men’s golf team to qualify for the NCAA Championship.
But after shooting a 1-over to enter the turn in second place at The Farms GC in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., Cleveland State fell apart and finished the three-day tournament in last place at 45-over.
“Three bad holes caused a domino effect and then we fell to the bottom of the field and guys started pressing, thinking they needed to go out and shoot 6-under the next day,” Vikings head coach Steve Weir said. “It’s just about gaining experience and building consistency.”
And despite graduating four players who logged at least 12 rounds last season, Weir is confident his team can make a return appearance – this time with a different result.
“This is the first year where I honestly feel like if we take the right steps, we’ll have a chance at regionals,” Weir said.
Cleveland State’s chances will likely rest partly on sophomore Andrew Bailey and junior Michael Klaric, who shared individual medalist honors at last year’s Horizon League Championship.
The duo combined for 10 rounds of par or better during the fall. Bailey won the rain-shortened CSU Invitational with a one-day total of 3-under, 68 – the lowest individual round of the fall for the Vikings.
“At the beginning of the year, they (Michael and Andrew) probably put a little too much pressure on themselves thinking they had to do more than they had to do,” Weir said. “College golf isn’t necessarily a sport where you can carry your whole team, but once they finally settled down and did what they do well, it calmed the other guys down too.
“They’re the ones that get on the guys if I’m not there to. They keep them going when they need a little kick in the pants.”
Cleveland State closed the fall with three straight top 5s, a trend Weir would like to see continued this spring.
“Last year we played our worst tournament right before the conference championship,” Weir said.
The Vikings concluded their 2011 spring campaign with a T-7 at the Earl Yestingmeier Invitational, but would rebound to claim their third Horizon League championship in four seasons, finishing seven strokes ahead of runner-up Wright State.
Weir knows his team can’t afford a repeat performance right before conference this time around.
“We’ve realized that we have won three out of the past four years and we talk about it quite a bit just to make sure their minds are in the right place,” Weir said. “Our goal from the end of August every year is the end of April. We work for eight months to get ready for the conference championship.
“Guys know that they aren’t going to hand it to us. All the other teams are working just as hard to beat us.”
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Top of the class: Cleveland State
Best player this fall: Andrew Wegeng, Butler
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2008: Cleveland State
2009: Cleveland State
2011: Cleveland State
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Cleveland State (Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: No. 172)
Vikings, who have won three of the last four conference titles, capped fall with three straight top 5s. Andrew Bailey (73.4 stroke average) and Michael Klaric (73.8) combined for 10 rounds of par or better during the fall.
Wright State (No. 195)
Highlight of fall came at the UK Bluegrass Fall Invitational, where the Raiders took a season-best third, 11 shots behind winner and tournament host, No. 97 Kentucky.
Detroit (No. 204)
Pair of sixth-place finishes was a bright spot for the Titans in the fall. Junior Simon Reyers and freshman Lucas Kim combined for five top 15 finishes and averaged more than two strokes less than their teammates.
Butler (No. 206)
Bulldogs began fall by winning the Green Bay Invitational, but perhaps more impressive was a second-place, 13-over finish at the Butler Fall Invitational. Andrew Wegeng led the team with three top 10s during the fall.
Valparaiso (No. 213)
Crusaders finished seventh or better in three of four fall events, including taking third with a 20-over team finish at the Butler Fall Invitational in October.
Loyola-Chicago (No. 231)
Ramblers had six golfers shoot at least 72, but notched just one team finish better than 11th place in five fall tournaments (second place at John Piper Intercollegiate).
Youngstown State (No. 237)
Struggled down the stretch after rattling off four top 10s to start the fall.
Wisconsin-Green Bay (No. 252)
Phoenix had some success as a team during the fall, notching three top 10s.
April 27-29, Mission Inn Resort, Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
Lance Ringler's prediction
Cleveland State. I really thought Detroit was going to be the team to beat the past few years in the Horizon League. The Titans won the title in 2009, but Cleveland State won last year making it three of the past four and will be the favorite this spring.
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Wondering how your favorite conference is shaping up headed into the spring season? Who is our favorite to pick up the automatic qualifier? Check out our conference-by-conference break down with our complete coverage page here.
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