In its first stroke play event of the spring, Indiana men’s golf finished in seventh out of nine teams at the Nexus Collegiate in the Bahamas.
No. 32 Indiana finished with a total team output of 946 strokes and 82-over par after the 54-hole event. The Hoosiers remained in the seventh position after all three rounds, played over a three-day span. The host, No. 22 Auburn University, won the event by three strokes.
“Maybe the Big Ten Match Play Championship got in front of us a little bit,” head coach Mike Mayer said. “But nobody wins in this sport every week.”
The competition Indiana faced was tough, as four of its eight opponents were ranked inside of the top 40, according to GolfWeek. Indiana did not play to its ranking, finishing below two unranked schools.
Senior Mitch Davis, the reigning Big Ten Golfer of the Week, and sophomore Clay Merchent led the Hoosiers with total scores of 235, 19-over par.
After one round of play, Indiana had a total score of 314, 26-over par. Junior Noah Gillard the Hoosiers with a 5-over round of 77. Gillard notched three birdies and five bogeys during his front nine and settled down on the second nine with two birdies. Merchent also had five birdies, including three in his first five holes, en route to a 6-over 78.
Indiana could not bounce back on Tuesday morning in the second round, where the team recorded a score of 324. Sophomore Drew Salyers had his best round of the tournament, shooting a 77. After two rounds, Salyers led the Hoosiers with a score of 157, 13-over par.
“We felt like we could come back (in the second round) and get back in the mix,” Mayer said. “Unfortunately, the second round was worse than the first. We got ourselves behind the 8-ball.”
Merchent also had the best overall Hoosier round of the tournament in round three with a 1-over 73. The sophomore showed consistency in the final round, putting up two birdies and 13 pars to finish in the top 20. Davis came right behind Merchent with a third-round score of 74, which featured two eagles.
“I was pleased with that last round,” Mayer said. “Two great rounds of golf in those extreme conditions. Hopefully that bodes well for us. (Merchent) needed a big round, and 73 was a big round of golf for anybody on the golf course that day.”
Senior Harry Reynolds finished fifth among all individual players, highlighted by rounds of 77 on both Monday and Wednesday.
The course conditions at the prestigious Albany Club were unforgiving through all three rounds. High winds played a factor in Indiana’s final placing, as the Hoosiers were unfamiliar with the setting.
“The conditions were simply brutal,” Mayer said. “We were hoping to play it with less than 20 mile per hour winds, but that’s what we got. It was tough to keep the ball in the fairway. If you weren’t in the fairway, it was no fun.”
Despite the challenging environment, Mayer said the Nexus Collegiate was one of his all-time favorite events in terms of the experience Indiana’s golfers had.
“Everything was first-class,” Mayer said. “Quite the experience to go and play this event. It’s a great, challenging golf course. A lot of pros make it their home for a reason.”
Popular golfers Tiger Woods and Ernie Els have ties to the Albany Club. Els designed the course and Woods has spent plenty of time there in the past.
Indiana will have a two-and-a-half week break before competing in the Colleton River Collegiate March 7-8 at the Colleton River Golf Club in Bluffton, South Carolina.
“We just have to make this tournament a turning point for everybody," Mayer said. "We can take a lot of positive things away from this event, and that’s what we are going to do.”