Men’s golf back on track after second tourney win of 2011

By Daniel Wallace

For the first time since the 2008-2009 season, the Baylor men’s golf team has won multiple tournaments in the same season. The first victory came last month in Charleston, S.C., and the most recent was Tuesday at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic. The Bears finished at 4-under-par 282-273-281=836, beating out second-place Arizona by three strokes in the 20-team field. The second round score of 273 was a season low.

The team posted 54 birdies in three rounds, with junior Joakim Mikkelsen carding 13 of them. Individually, Mikkelsen shot a final round score of 65 to finish at 7-under-par and in second place. He set new 18, 36 and 54-hole career lows for the second time this season to finish at 70-68-65=203. His third round score of 65 was the lowest individual round by a Baylor golfer since Colton Williams in 2007. This was the star golfer’s third top-five finish this season and the sixth of his career.

Senior Payne Gniewek also had a couple of career days in Wyoming. After getting off to a slow start earlier in the season, he posted his best tournament in his career at Baylor to tie for ninth place at 1-under-par 209.

“Once I got there [in Wyoming], it all felt right and it was good for my confidence,” said Gniewek, who added he struggled earlier in the season with his putting. Mikkelsen said Gniewek’s performance should not be seen as anything “special” from him because he is capable of playing consistently.

“That’s as good as he is, if not better; he got back to where he needs to be … hopefully he will keep playing like that,” Mikkelsen said.

Head coach Greg Priest said he believes his team is peaking at just the right time because of the patience his team has shown throughout the season.

“We struggled early but made sure we stayed patient and understood that it’s a long season. All the tournaments are warm-ups for conferences and nationals,” he said. Gniewek said the attitude of the team has changed recently and accredits that to their success. He recalled a meeting the team held about a month ago where they discussed staying positive, no matter the circumstances. After that meeting, he said they came out with a new sense of confidence.

“We expected to win; we expected to play well going into tournaments and had a lot of confidence going into tournaments [after that meeting],” Gniewek said.

Mikkelsen also added that not only is the team playing with more confidence, but its aggressiveness has helped tit to be more successful as well. He hopes the team can show that same aggressiveness in its next tournament, the Aggie Invitational, beginning April 16 in Bryan.

Asked if he expects the team to win that tournament, he said, “We definitely hope to do some damage. We can’t fool around, and we can’t do anything stupid.”

The Bears hope to ride their confidence going into their last regular season tournament before the Big 12 championship later in the month.