The Hoosier men’s golf team will look to take a stride forward this weekend after finishing in eighth place at the Northern Intercollegiate last weekend.
The team’s second tournament of the season, the Olympia Fields Fighting Illini Invitational, kicks off Friday morning at the Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill.
IU Coach Mike Mayer said the team needs to get a fast start, especially after digging themselves in an early hole last weekend with a poor first-round performance.
“We need to attack the course early and often this week,” he said.
The Hoosiers tied for 10th last season when they visited Olympia Fields, with the top scores provided by now-graduated Brant Peaper and then-junior Hugo Menendez, neither of whom will be participating this weekend.
The five active men on the squad this time around will be senior David Mills, junior Nicholas Grubnich, sophomores Max Kollin and Sean Stone and freshman Will Seger.
In a short week of practice, Mayer challenged the team with strength and conditioning work, as well as swing work focused on both mechanics and mentality. He said they responded with passion and pride.
“We’re going to be a little mentally stronger, and our golf swing will be a little better,” he said.
Mayer said Assistant Coach Brian McCants delivered a great speech to the team in practice, emphasizing the importance of improving every day and building on their performance each week.
Mayer said the coaching also varies from player to player, some getting more critique than others.
“No tweaking with David Mills, just reinforcing what he did last week,” he said.
Mills was named Big Ten’s Golfer of the Week on Wednesday as a result of his performance at the Northern Intercollegiate. He finished in a tie for the fourth best individual score at two-under par 214 for the weekend. This marked the first time in his career that he received this honor.
Even with the honor, Mills said there is always room for improvement, both on a team and individual level.
He said the team managed to squeeze in some quality practice despite being handed a short week on the schedule.
“I think these definitely prepare us for dealing with the mental side of the game, and I think we are ready to go,” he said.
The eighth-annual Olympia Fields Fighting Illini Invitational will consist of three rounds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all on the par 70 Olympia Fields Country Club North Course.
The teams competing include defending-national champion No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Texas, defending-tournament champion No. 7 Arkansas and five other top-25 nationally ranked Division 1 schools.
The team, coaches and players alike agree that the increased level of competition should not change their mindset going in.
Kollin said the team goal is to finish on top of the leaderboard, regardless of the other teams involved.
“We enter each competition going for the win, even if we are playing against the best golfers in the world,” he said. “We have an opportunity to post a good finish in this tournament and definitely help our ranking and our confidence moving forward.”
Follow reporter Michael Nichols on Twitter @Mike_Nichols1.