For a team that was disappointed with a No. 15 finish in last season’s NCAA tournament, Washburn’s golfers were surprisingly satisfied with a score in the bottom half of the Kiawah Island Invitational standings.
It’s not that the team doesn’t care, or that they have lowered expectations. They just know bouncing back won’t be too difficult.
“We’ve played in this tournament the past few years to start our season,” said junior Matt Lazzo, who finished No. 43 individually. “It seems like we always end up in the 8 or 9 range, which isn’t too good, but we’ve proven every year that we do better in the tournaments following this one.”
With golfers like Lazzo and senior Matt Ewald participating in several offseason tournaments, the low finishes can’t be blamed on rust. There are some other variables the golfers point to when explaining their high scores.
“Whether it’s the tournament itself or just the tough competition, something just gives us troubles there,” said Ewald, who led WU’s golfers in a No. 5 individual performance. “I know the grass is different there from most Kansas courses, and that might throw us off a little bit.”
On a team with this much experience, it doesn’t matter if the golfers are teeing off from grass, sand or the moon. Whatever the conditions, the three Matts (Lazzo, Ewald and senior Matt Salome) are likely to adapt and finish reasonably high on the leaderboard.
Finishing below eight other teams isn’t what the team expected, but it is an improvement from how they opened the tournament.
“I got better as the tournament went on and the team improved as well,” Lazzo said. “Early on, the scores just added up on us. On a course like that, the numbers build up quick. You get some bogeys and all of a sudden you’ve got a high score.
I lowered my score 8 strokes on the second day, so we found what we needed to work on, and I think fixed it for the most part.”
Competitive teams in the South Carolina field added to the Bods’ struggles as well, and the beginning of MIAA play today won’t make things any easier.
“We’ll definitely have to bring our A game for conference,” Ewald said. “We go to Pitt State and any MIAA tournament is a good one. Central Missouri has been a good rival for use. They return their top five guys, and that doesn’t include any new guys they may have picked up in the offseason.”
The 152 score Lazzo shot in the season opener is a little high for his liking, but even after struggling early, it’s not as high as his confidence.
“Winning every conference tournament isn’t even a goal for us anymore,” he said. “We just expect it.”