Feb. 15, 2018
As the results, accolades, and rankings rolled in during the fall portion of the 2017-18 season for the Marquette men’s golf team, the reports were always impressive, if not outright shocking upon first glance.
Here’s a brief recap:
- Marquette earned a national top-25 ranking in the sport’s coaches’ poll for the first time in program history on Sept. 29, checking in at No. 22 in the GCAA Golfweek/Bushnell Poll. Marquette has fielded a varsity men’s golf team since 1924.
- MU enters its spring schedule ranked 27th in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings and 33rd in the Golfstat ratings. After opening the season with a 17-under-par third place finish at the Badger Invitational, the Golden Eagles spent considerable time in the top-10 of the national power ratings.
- MU finished in the top five of each fall event, including a school-record and eye-popping 32-under-par performance in its win at the Northern Intercollegiate at Rich Harvest Farms, the site of the 2017 NCAA Championships. For comparison, the course yielded an 18-under-par score to stroke play top finisher Vanderbilt last May.
- Three MU players (Oliver Farrell, Austin Kendziorski, Hunter Eichhorn) claimed medalist spots over the season’s first five events. Eichhorn’s win came just five events into his first collegiate season.
- Kendziorski’s emergence has been arguably the most impressive performance of the season, as he enters the spring ranked in the top-100 of both power ratings. After entering the fall with a career 76.68 scoring average, Kendziorski (70.73) posted four top-10 finishes in the fall including his medal at the Marquette Intercollegiate at Erin Hills, which played as the longest course in major championship history during the US Open last June.
Even as MU entered the season as the defending BIG EAST Champion, results like these were hard to see coming back in August. From inside the locker room, and on the practice range, it was a different view.
“I know how hard our guys have worked and at some point things are going to turn in your favor if you keep doing things that are above and beyond,” coach Steve Bailey said at the end of the fall.
After opening the season with a third place finish at the Badger Invitational in September to set the tone, MU started rolling early in its next event, the Northern Intercollegiate at the typically-tough Rich Harvest Farms course. A 14-under-par first round in a long 36-hole day was an inspired start. But in Bailey’s mind, a little more inspiration wasn’t going to hurt to get his team through the second round.
“My assistant Trake [Carpenter] and I started relaying all of the positive stuff that was going on,” he said. “We would tell them, ‘Austin just birdied two of his last three,’ and OJ [Farrell] would respond ‘I’m coming for him.’
“It became contagious, with guys posting some numbers that were really special.”
It wasn’t just the numbers they shared, or the team-wide competitive spirit, that impressed Bailey during that event.
“The thing I was most proud of was watching our guys come off the course and embrace one other, and show not only the excitement they had about their own performance, but what their teammates were doing too.”
With a win by 13 strokes and records set at the Northern Intercollegiate, it was proof that the work and belief were paying off. MU finished no worse than fifth in any event during the fall season, including a third place showing in the team’s annual home event, the Marquette Intercollegiate at Erin Hills.
“That’s just special to have been able to play [Erin Hills] the same year as the US Open and tee it up under those conditions,” Bailey said.
Now, Marquette’s spring season includes five events and the 2018 BIG EAST Championships in its march towards a second straight NCAA berth. It may be the toughest half-season schedule the Golden Eagles have ever taken on.
MU tees off the spring at the 28th-annual Puerto Rico Classic, hosted by Purdue, Feb. 18-20. That field includes defending NCAA champion Oklahoma, as well as seven top-50 teams (Marquette included). Just a month and a half later, Marquette travels to another of college golf’s top tournaments, the 3M Augusta Invitational (March 29-April 1). Eight top-50 squads dot the field of Augusta’s pre-Masters tournament that includes Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth among its former players.
“These are two of the best fields we’ll be in all year and two of the best in the country,” Bailey said. “We’ve done it enough now to where we’re not in awe of any other program. The events we’ve gotten into the past few years have prepared us for these stages.
“We’re always trying to get ourselves prepared for the postseason and there’s not a better way to do it than tee it up with the best.”
Marquette opens the spring on Sunday morning in the first round of the Puerto Rico Classic.