For Appalachian State’s men’s golf team, finding consistency in their spring season is the team’s top priority amidst an up and down start to their 2016 campaign. Currently ranked eighth in the Sun Belt Conference, the Mountaineers have plenty of ground to make up before season’s end.
“We had a chance to get a top five finish at a really high quality field that had ACC and a couple of Big Ten teams in it and just did not finish the job,” head coach Bill Dicus said.
Dicus was referring to the team’s collapse during the last round of the Kingsmill Intercollegiate in Williamsburg, Virginia, where they placed 11th out of 24 teams after coming into the last day of the tournament tied for fifth.
Freshman Alex Burris shot a six–over par 76 in the last round to add on to the team’s overall final -round score of 303, which was 15 strokes higher than the Apps’ lowest round that weekend. Sophomore Chance Watson posted the low round of the tournament for the Mountaineers with two rounds of even-par 70.
“We have just got to learn how to close out tournaments and finish the final rounds a little stronger,” Burris said. “We’ve put good rounds together but we need to combine scores a little better and get some lower scores. A few shots here and there will save everybody.”
Including the 11th place finish at Kingsmill Intercollegiate, the Mountaineers boast a head-to-head record of 34-20, meaning that in the tournaments they’ve played, they’ve been roughly in the top third of competition every time.
“I would consider [the record] a positive,” Dicus said.
Caleb Keck, the team’s lone senior, has seen gradual improvement from the team throughout the spring season, even more so in comparison to their fall campaign.
“I feel like our team is definitely getting better each tournament,” Keck said. “We’re all playing good it’s just more of playing good together and just staying mentally focused. This past tournament the weather and the conditions were probably the hardest thing we had to deal with, there was a lot of wind and cold, but I think we’re all playing really well.”
There is truth in Keck’s statement of the team’s spring progression, since they only had one top five finish in the fall season. The men finished fifth in the Cape Fear National Intercollegiate after finishing seventh at Bash at the Beach for their first spring outing. The team’s finish at Kingsmill proved that the Mountaineers can struggle while ahead of the competition.
The Mountaineers were slated to play in their annual men and women paired University Cup tournament with Gardner- Webb University on March 24, until the match was canceled two days before play.
“It’s an unusual circumstance that it’s the only place that you would see both men’s and women’s teams actually play together, and so trying to get all four of those teams lined up logistically with our schedules and all that we just couldn’t quite make it happen,” Dicus said. “It’s a different kind of event in that we’re playing against one other team so it probably has more significance for people outside the program than from inside. In a grand scheme of things it’s more of a glorified practice session than anything else.”
Dicus said the next three tournaments would be the hardest test thus far for the men, especially the Irish Creek Intercollegiate, which he described as “our toughest field of the year, no doubt about it.” The field for the Irish Creek Intercollegiate includes ACC stalwarts UNC Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and Florida State, all three programs with national prominence.
Before the Sun Belt Championship, the Mountaineers will venture to the Wofford Intercollegiate in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where Keck won the tournament three years ago.
“Spartanburg is a place where we have had success. One of our players [sophomore Jake Smith] is from Spartanburg, so it’s going to be kind of a homecoming for him and hopefully he’ll be able to give us a solid performance there,” Dicus said. “He struggled in the last tournament, but that’s kind of the nature of the game, when you think you got it all figured out you don’t have anything figured out. He’ll bounce back and I expect he’ll play well.”
The Mountaineers look to improve on last year’s finishes at both tournaments where they finished 13 out of 15 at Irish Creek and 13 out of 14 at Wofford.
Appalachian State men’s golf continues their season at the Irish Creek Intercollegiate at Irish Creek Golf Club in Kannapolis, North Carolina from April 9-10.
Story by: Angelo Errico
Featured Image Caption: Senior Caleb Keck tees off. Photo courtesy App State Athletics.