Invitations for the 2011 Golfweek Conference Challenge were sent to the top-ranked team in a conference at the conclusion of the 2010 fall season and with Kent State unable to participate this year, the next team in line to represent the Mid-American Conference was Ball State. Head coach Mike Fleck quickly accepted.
The Cardinals are coming off one of their best seasons in program history. Fleck, who has been the head coach since 1998, guided his team to nine top-six finishes in 10 starts a year ago. The Cardinals placed second last spring at the Mid-American Conference Championship and are hoping to challenge Kent State this year. And if the start of the season is any indication, they just might do it.
“We have gotten off to a solid start to the fall season,” Fleck said. “I have a talented group of guys that are committed to the process of becoming better, and we are excited about where we are going.”
In two starts this fall, Ball State tied for fourth at the Northern Intercollegiate and placed fifth at the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational. Both finishes came with quality head-to-head wins for Ball State. At the Northern Intercollegiate, played at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., Ball State tied Virginia Tech and placed ahead of Illinois and Purdue. A week later, the Cardinals went west to Air Force to compete in the Falcon Invitational and recorded wins against Coastal Carolina and San Diego.
To add to the good start, the Cardinals brought home a couple of individual titles. Senior T.J. Carpenter shared medalist honors with UNLV’s Kevin Penner at the Falcon Invitational, and sophomore Tyler Merkel tied Central Florida’s Brad Schneider at the Northern Intercollegiate
“It’s been nice to see Merkel and Carpenter earn co-medalist honors in each of our first two events,” Fleck said.
This week is yet another chance for Ball State to pick up some quality victories and make a bigger dot for Ball State on the college golf map.
“Playing this week is a wonderful opportunity to compete against the top teams in college golf and will provide our players with valuable experience as we progress through the season,” Fleck said. “With continued good play, a positive experience here would be very beneficial to our program and players.”