On Feb. 17, just after the Hoosiers had finished in second place at the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate, IU men’s golf head coach Mike Mayer knew his team had talent.
But Mayer says that winning in golf takes more than talent. It takes confidence.
They had won the Big Ten Match Play Championship just 10 days prior and felt they had something to build on.
The team had confidence, but it stalled out.
The remainder of the regular season was solid, Mayer said. Solid golf and beating good teams, but nothing more.
“I don’t think we ever got over that hump,” Mayer said. “I think we have the potential to really, really do something.”
The Hoosiers ended their season with a 9th place finish at the Tallahassee NCAA Regional at the Seminole Legacy Golf Club in Tallahassee, Florida, on Wednesday. They needed a top five finish to advance to the NCAA Championship.
IU opened the tournament Monday without any members of its lineup shooting over par on the front nine, then nobody from the lineup shot under par on the back nine. The Hoosiers finished the first round with a total score of 290.
“Kind of a tale of two different nines,” Mayer said.
The trend continued the next day as the Hoosiers carded a 290 again with bogeys across the lineup on the back nine.
The team began on the back nine for the third and final round, finding just two birdies while bogeying 15 times between holes 10 and 18. The team swapped ninth and 10th place with Louisiana State University and Davidson College throughout the day before taking control on the front nine with 12 birdies to cement their spot at ninth.
“We knew going in we’ve got to put together three really, really solid rounds to make it out,” Mayer said. “We feel like we played well, but not well enough.”
This was the program’s first postseason appearance under Mayer since 2013. IU’s lineup at the time was made up of three seniors, a junior and a sophomore.
This year’s lineup, which he believes is more talented than that of 2013, will return all but one member next year. Graduate student Brock Ochsenreiter is the only player leaving.
IU’s lineup included two freshmen in Clay Merchent and Drew Salyers, both of whom Mayer felt strongly about during the recruitment process.
“I thought those two in particular had a really, really high chance to elevate our program,” Mayer said.
Merchent won Big Ten Freshman of the Year alongside being named First Team All-Big Ten on May 5. Mayer believes that Salyers could become one of the best collegiate men’s golf players in the country.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anywhere near the best of Drew Salyers,” Mayer said. “I think that young man has the potential to shoot extremely low numbers.”
IU will also return junior Mitch Davis and senior Ethan Shepherd, who is opting to return for a fifth year. It was Davis’ final putt that won the Big Ten Match Play Championship, and Shepherd was named Second Team All-Big Ten after a ninth place finish at the Big Ten Championship on May 2.
Mayer also looks forward to the additions of Illinois transfer senior Noah Gillard and incoming freshman Ethan Chelf.
The current roster will participate in amateur golf tournaments over the summer to prepare for the fall. Meanwhile, Mayer and the coaching staff will target the best player they can find in the class of 2022.
“I feel great about the future of Indiana golf,” Mayer said.