Appalachian State University men’s golf had an eventful start to their weekend after finishing 13th in the Irish Creek Collegiate on Sunday and tying for 10th place in the Coca-Cola Wofford Intercollegiate on Tuesday.
The Mountaineers began their weekend on Saturday at Irish Creek and ended the tournament on Sunday in 13th place out of 16 teams. Irish Creek posed a huge challenge for the Apps, where they faced off against nationally ranked opponents including No. 21 UNC, No. 18 FSU and champion No. 13 Wake Forest.
The Apps struggled with playing consistently and scoring pars, for which they placed last. Senior Caleb Keck and junior Patrick Moriarty led the Apps with 62 pars between them out of the team’s overall 143 pars. In comparison, second place finisher Kennesaw State recorded 38 more pars.
Moriarty tied for fourth overall with 10 birdies, and Appalachian scored 19 less birdies than the champion Demon Deacons.
Junior Kyle Austin shot his lowest spring season score in the final round with a 73 (+2) but ended up posting the App’s highest final individual total of 234, thanks to an 82 in the first round and a 79 in the second.
“The conditions were a lot easier,” Austin said after his final round play. “The wind wasn’t really blowing as much. I actually got to play with one of my friends from UNC-Greensboro, [Taylor Coalson], so that kind of helped. It was a relaxed group.”
The night before the final round, Austin said he spoke to his father about his poor play in the first two rounds and his father responded with words of encouragement telling his son that “every shot is a bonus.”
The cold, windy weather got the best of the Mountaineers in the first two rounds and it showed in Saturday’s scores.
“This was the best field we had all year and even those guys were struggling,” Austin said.
Freshman Alex Burris scored one stroke behind sophomore Jake Smith’s high of 231 strokes.
Smith began the tournament strong, shooting 1-over in the first round, but then shot an 82 in his final round, which was the Mountaineer’s highest individual round, to finish out Irish Creek. Smith posted 231 for the tournament.
Smith returned to his hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, for the Apps next tournament of the week but his struggles continued placing tied for 67th and finishing with a 226.
Burris was not far ahead of Smith, finishing a shot ahead and finishing tied for 64th.
Freshman Thomas Hodges, who according to Keck played because of the shortness of the course and sophomore Chance Watson being out with mono, trailed the rest of his team in his first start since the Cape Fear Intercollegiate. At Cape Fear, Hodges set aside his rookie mentality and helped the Apps go on to place fifth in the tournament and 45th individually. Unfortunately for Hodges, he struggled at Wofford, placing 85th in the tournament.
“The best way to learn is to just be thrown into the situation and see how you handle it,” Keck said in response to how he and Moriarty helped guide the young players. “With golf it’s just the more you put yourself in the situation, the more you’re comfortable.”
Again in South Carolina, Keck and Moriarty recorded over 60 pars, and Moriarty scored two eagles.
“For those two courses, it’s experience,” Moriarty said. “You learn where to hit the ball, you learn where your birdie opportunities are and you learn what holes are just par holes. You just take par and be happy with them and not be too aggressive.”
Keck placed tied for 15th and Moriarty, with three under par rounds, tied for sixth.
This is the sixth time Moriarty has placed in the top-10 all year, the first since the Bash at the Beach in early March.
Irish Creek and Wofford were Moriarty’s first tournaments since the Kingsmill Intercollegiate, where he placed 51st and shot his highest overall tournament score all year. Moriarty was looking to bounce back and that’s exactly what he did this long weekend.
During his long break from competitive golf between Kingsmill and the past two tournaments, Moriarty said he focused a lot on the short game, because that’s the “heart and soul” of his game.
“[At Kingsmill] I didn’t really play that smart of golf, I made a lot of dumb mistakes,” Moriarty said. “Just a combination of making a couple of more putts and playing smarter golf easily got me back into the top-10.”
Moriarty is currently ranked ninth in the Sun Belt going into the conference championship where the Mountaineers look to finish out the season strong on April 24-26 at Raven Golf Club in Sandestin, Florida.