The Drake men’s golf team emerged from hibernation to play in its first tournament of the spring season last Saturday. Drake, as well as in-state rivals Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa, escaped the chilly clutches of its home state to participate in the annual Big 4 Championship at Lone Tree Golf Club in Phoenix.
The team has been practicing in a dome since the winter break, and sophomore Ben Lyons was getting antsy to play some golf outside.
He said that while it was interesting to see grass for the first time in three months, the team was focused on keeping reasonable expectations and having fun.
For the tournament, a head-to-head competition format was used. Instead of counting the teams’ strokes as a whole, each team lined up its top six golfers and each golfer played his numbered counterpart. This meant the No. 1 golfer played the other No. 1, and No. 2 played the other No. 2 and so on. In each of these individual matches, whoever shot the lower score was the winner and earned his team one point.
The morning match for the Bulldogs was against the nationally ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. After a two-hour frost delay, the teams played on, and the Bulldogs’ winter rust became evident in the final score. Drake dropped the first match 5-1. The lone victory point came from senior Cody Schweinefus. Head coach Scott Bohlender was humble but critical about his team’s performance against the Hawkeyes.
“It is hard to set expectations when you don’t know until afterwards,” Bohlender said. “[Iowa] has a really solid squad and we competed as best we could. Unfortunately, Cody was the lone guy that exceeded our expectations.”
Sophomore Jared Gustafson was optimistic about the team’s play against a Big Ten opponent.
“If we’re just as good as them, it’s just about consistency,” he said. “How to hit the ball best, focusing on every shot and getting good scores; we can play just as well.”
Drake went on to play in the consolation match against Missouri Valley rival Northern Iowa. The Bulldogs played a much tighter game against their bitter rivals, but lost 4-2. Because of the frost delay in the morning the teams were only able to play 16 holes for the second match. Overall, the team’s performance showed need for improvement.
The team has the chance to improve as it has a three-week hiatus until the next tournament. The Bulldogs will travel to Palm Desert, Calif., for the Wyoming Desert Classic. It will be an uphill battle playing against not only stiff competition, but also teams that have been able to practice outside since late November in the southern and western states. Gustafson feels hopeful and confident that the team can get better and compete in the future.
“Everyone wants to improve from Phoenix,” he said. “Our goal is a top three finish in the [Wyoming Desert Classic]. That is big expectations, but if everyone plays how we should, then I can see it happen.”