IU men’s golf didn’t enter the fall season with particularly lofty goals. It didn’t expect to be winning every tournament, to lead the Big Ten or to top individual leaderboards.
Although some tournaments might not have gone as well as it had hoped, IU Coach Mike Mayer said it heads into the offseason feeling good about the improvements it’s made this season.
“I think we made a lot of progress,” sophomore Brendon Doyle said. “There are definitely some positives to take away from (this season), and some improvements, but I think we just need to continue to (improve).”
The Hoosiers played in six tournaments this fall, with their best finish being at the Windon Memorial on Sept. 27-28, as they placed seventh out of 14 teams with a total score of 862. Their worst finish was at the Crooked Stick Intercollegiate on Oct. 12-13, placing ninth out of 12 teams with an overall score of 934.
“Our biggest goal was to do better, and I really felt we got better,” Mayer said. “I feel we’re a better team than last year, and I think for the most part we continued to develop throughout the fall.”
Mayer said he saw the most improvement this season from freshman Jake Brown and junior Andrew Havill. Brown’s final round at the Windon Memorial, in which he shot a 66, was the best individual round for IU all season, and led the team to its best team round. Havill was particularly strong in the final tournament of the season, the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic.
“I didn’t feel like, last year, (Brpwm) was at all ready to play,” Mayer said. “But this year, it’s a different Jake -- much more demanding of himself and his teammates, much more of a leader. Andrew struggled his first two years. But this year he’s been dominating qualifying. He continues to prove that he may be the guy that turns out to be the guy we desperately need at the top of the lineup.”
Though there are positives out of the fall season, the Hoosiers know they have work to do to improve upon their shortcomings as a team. Mayer frequently refers to the need for a go-to guy to step up and the struggle to get off to good starts and finish strong in tournaments.
“We didn’t finish out our golf rounds as well as we should have,” Doyle said. “And honestly, we didn’t really start off well either. We did have a couple of good team rounds, but they just came at the wrong times.”
IU had the same five golfers in the lineup for all six tournaments: Brown, Doyle, Havill, senior Max Kollin, and junior Keegan Vea. Kollin’s best tournaments were Olympia Fields and the Windon Memorial, in which he shot 222. Vea tied with Brown at the Windon Memorial with a 213, which was even with par.
Brown — the only freshman in the lineup — at times this season showed the poise of an upperclassman on the golf course. The redshirt freshman might not have played as well as he hoped throughout the season, but Mayer said he certainly showed flashes of great potential.
“We had a year last year that nobody on the team was really happy with, and I think not playing last year really sparked me to want to play this year, and to make an impact,” Brown said. “I played OK, I wouldn’t say I necessarily made a big impact on this team, as we see ourselves in the same position as last year.”
Heading into the offseason, Mayer said the team will work on technique, and they hope to find the player they can rely on at the top of the lineup.
He also said the team has good balance at the top of the lineup — a sign of promising, young talent — but he’s looking for someone to lead the team in a more dominant fashion.
“We need the one-two punch, and right now we don’t have the one-punch or the two-punch,” Mayer said. “That balance will only get you so far. But, I don’t think we’re that far away from having a one-punch, or a two-punch, or both.”
Above all, the team’s biggest goal for the offseason heading into the spring is to continue making strides and improving. Brown said for the players to become better individually, they need to improve mentally in order to avoid disastrous rounds.
“It’s been one round per tournament that’s thrown us off,” Brown said. “Sustaining and putting three good rounds together is a goal of ours, and (something) that we need to do each and every tournament to be competitive.”
The team will benefit in the offseason from the opening of a new facility with enhanced technology, such as radars, video and ball-launch monitors to give the athletes insight on how to improve their game.
“I think we’ve been working too much at tournaments on technique, and when we get to tournaments we need to be ready and let it happen,” Mayer said. “Hopefully that will enable us to get to a point where we don’t have to go to the tournament and work on the golf swing, we just have to go to the tournament and play golf.”