By Daniel Wallace
The men’s golf team dominated its competition Monday and Tuesday in the Charleston Shootout, taking home the first-place crown in a tournament for the first time since 2009. It was a landslide victory for the Bears, who won the Charleston, S.C., tournament by 14 strokes.
It finished the 15-team tournament with a score of 8-under-par 856. The closest competition, College of Charleston, carded a score of 6-over-par 870, for the second- place finish. The team got out to a quick start on Monday, firing a first-day score of 4-under 572, and entered Tuesday with a five-stroke lead.
Heading into the final round on Tuesday, the Bears still led comfortably by 4 strokes. It was then they put the competition away, carding a 4-under-par 284 round, a season-best.
Head coach Greg Priest said he was pleased with the team and is sure it is headed in the right direction.
“A win like this will help build our confidence as we move forward,” Priest said. “Our performance helped us knock off some of the rust. I saw a lot of good things from our guys this week.”
The rust he speaks of is referring to the Bears’ last tournament, which followed a three-month gap between play for the holidays. In that tournament, the team finished with a score of 25-over-par.
With a 33-shot differential from one tournament to the next and a title under the Bears’ belt, the rust appears to be more than just “knocked off,” but rather vanished. Everybody was clicking for the Bears in the two-day tournament, sophomore Ryan O’Rear said.
“We finally just all played [well] at the same time. We are getting our confidence back and getting back to where we need to be,” O’Rear said.
A tournament victory like this gives the Bears momentum heading into their next tournament, the Southern Highlands Collegiate tournament beginning March 11 in Las Vegas.
Stellar individual performances led the way for the team to take the first-place prize. Four of the five Baylor golfers finished in the top 10 and all five in the top 25.
Sophomore Jerry Ruiz placed third overall at 5-under (70-73-68=211) for his first career top-five finish. Following him was teammate and junior Joakim Mikkelsen in fourth place at 2-under (71-70-73=214). O’Rear finished the tournament even at par and tied for fifth place, thanks to his four consecutive birdies to end the final round Tuesday.
Senior Cody Paladino and junior Lorenzo Scotto finished tied for eighth and 22nd, respectively.
Mikkelsen knows the team will have to keep up this success to be where they want to be.
“We just have to keep getting better; we have no room to relent,” Mikkelsen said.
Not relenting will be key in the month of March beginning on the 11th, in the first of three tournaments in just 16 days.