In its first event of the spring season, Indiana men’s golf finished first in the Big Ten Match Play Championship in Hammock Beach, Florida. Indiana, the fourth seed in this year’s tournament and last year’s winner, replicated their success by using the same lineup as last year’s event.
Indiana won one match Friday and two matches Saturday to hoist the trophy again.
Indiana received a bye to the quarterfinals, where they faced the No. 5 seed, Penn State, Friday afternoon. The Hoosiers pulled away from the Nittany Lions, 3.5-1.5, and went undefeated in all five matches. Indiana won two matches and halved the other three.
Senior Mitch Davis and fifth-year senior Ethan Shepherd picked up the two wins for Indiana, beating their Penn State opponents 3 and 1 and 4 and 2, respectively. Both Davis and Shepherd never trailed in their matches after taking the lead on the first hole. Sophomore Drew Salyers trailed for 14 holes but found a way to earn half a point with a tie.
“This was a tough match,” head coach Mike Mayer said. “We were able to get off to a fast start, but Penn State really came back and battled us. Fortunately, we outplayed them down the stretch to get the win.”
Indiana advanced to the semifinals, where they faced the top seed, Purdue. The Hoosiers are familiar with the Boilermakers, as they already beat them twice during the fall season.
History repeated itself as the Hoosiers took down the No. 22 ranked team in the country, 3-2. Davis and junior Noah Gillard picked up the wins in Saturday morning’s matches, with Salyers and Shepherd halving their matches. Davis dominated, needing only 14 holes to defeat his opponent, whereas Gillard won his match, 3 and 2.
“The Purdue match took a lot of energy out of us,” Mayer said. “They are a really good team, but it is good to beat them. We are 3-0 against them this season and that is incredible given their top-25 ranking.”
With this upset win, Indiana marched onto the finals on Saturday afternoon to face the No. 3 seed, Michigan State. Despite being down for most of the match, Indiana squeaked out a win, 3-2, to repeat as Big Ten Match Play Champions.
Davis won again to finish 3-0 on the weekend, Gillard picked up his second win on Saturday, and sophomore Clay Merchent collected his first win of the event en route to the title. Merchent went wire-to-wire in his match, while Gillard took the lead at the 14th hole to win 3 and 2 and Davis won the tournament for the Hoosiers on the final hole, winning one-up. Both Gillard and Davis were one-down early on the back nine, but battled to bring home the hardware.
“We had a slow start against a really good Michigan State team,” Mayer said. “We were very resilient down the stretch and were able to pull it out.”
Mayer said he expected the weather conditions, including winds and temperature, on the course to be tough going into the event.
“(Saturday) was a tough day,” Mayer said. “Tough winds and temperatures about 20-25 degrees colder than yesterday. But we battled and had the right guy in the right moment in Mitch Davis.
Davis sank a 10-foot putt for the win on the final hole against his Michigan State opponent.
Indiana, now three-time winners of the event, will celebrate their victory before traveling to the Bahamas on Feb. 14-16 for the Albany Collegiate Invitational.