After a 2012-13 regular season that saw three tournament titles, three individual event titles and three players named Big Ten Player of the Week, the IU men’s golf program begins the postseason this weekend at the Big Ten Championship.
The event, which takes place on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind., will see a competitive field containing six top-100 teams (No. 30 Illinois, No. 31 Northwestern, No. 55 Iowa, No. 59 IU, No. 74 Purdue and No. 87 Ohio State).
While the Hoosiers have added to their already significant trophy collection this season, the team has struggled with consistency. A tie for sixth place at the Big Ten Match Play Championships was followed with a twelfth-place effort at the Bayou City Collegiate Championship.
After a three-week break, the Hoosiers found a streak of strong performance, collecting back-to-back victories at the Mission Inn Spring Spectacular and the NYX Hoosier Invitational in Bloomington before a sixth-place finish at the Boilermaker Invitational last week.
The up-and-down performance of the team has put the chance for a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in jeopardy. IU currently sits at No. 59 in the Golfweek national rankings; it is commonly accepted that any team in the top 60 of the rankings is all but guaranteed a berth in the tournament.
“College golf rankings are an anomaly. They’re hard to figure sometimes,” IU Coach Mike Mayer said. “I think the (NCAA Tournament) committee will look at a lot of things. They’ll look at wins, they’ll look at quality wins, they’ll look at tournament victories and they’ll take a peek at the rankings.”
With only three teams in the field ranked higher than the Hoosiers, a strong performance will be needed in order to ensure a spot in the NCAA Regional.
Senior Michael McGee said he feels confident in the team’s ability to do so.
“We’ve played some of the teams before, and we have a good feel for the teams that are going to be in it,” McGee said. “There’s nobody in the conference we don’t feel we can beat, and the course is one that fits us very well.”
Representing the Hoosiers this weekend will be senior Brant Peaper, McGee, senior Corey Ziedonis, junior David Mills and sophomore Andrew Fogg.
While Peaper has been dominant for much of the season, leading the Hoosiers in scoring average and top-five finishes, much of the Hoosiers’ success in the spring and going forward depends on the performance of the lineup behind him.
“We need to know that we have guys in the back end to step up and be clutch,” McGee said. “We need to have four solid scores going forward.”
For IU men’s golf, that has been the struggle — finding consistent play behind Peaper.
In order for the Hoosiers to contend for a conference championship and continue their season with NCAA Tournament play, McGee, Ziedonis, Mills and Fogg must step up and support the play of their leader.
If that happens, Mayer said, watch out.
“It all sets up for the Big Ten Championship,” Mayer said. “We’re not anywhere near our potential.”
The Big Ten Men’s Golf Championship will begin with 36 holes Friday, followed by 18 holes on both Saturday and Sunday.