By Daniel Wallace
The Baylor men’s golf capped off the regular season with a fourth place finish, ahead of Big 12 foes Texas and Oklahoma, at the Aggie Invitational on Sunday in Bryan. The No. 46 ranked Bears finished at 41-over-par (376-377-368=1121) for their sixth top-five finish this season. Host Texas A&M won the tournament at 5-over-par while the overall top-seeded Oklahoma State Cowboys finished 19 shots behind at 24-over-par for the second place finish. Four Baylor golfers finished in the top-25 individually, including junior Joakim Mikkelsen’s tie for fourteenth place at 6-over-par.
The field consisted of six Big 12 teams and a total of seven ranked in the top 50. It was a performance that head coach Greg Priest said he was pleased with
“It was a good, strong field. I thought we played solid; I thought we came out respectable, and did some good things,” he said.
Senior Cody Paladino finished tied for 24th place at 9-over-par and spoke of the consistency all five golfers had in the tournament.
“No one was unbelievable but we were all solid. We had some good momentum….[we] had nothing stopping us,” he added.
After overcoming a second round score of 82 with a third round score of 69, sophomore Ryan O’Rear finished tied for 22nd place at 8-over-par. He said the key to his bounce back on the final round was just clearing his mind and not dwelling on it. He also added that the team is capable of playing better and has not hit its peak yet.
The Bears head into the Big 12 championship next week knowing they can compete with the best of the best. Closing the season with three consecutive top-five finishes has them playing with great confidence, Priest said they have room to improve if they want to be a threat in the Big 12 championship.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best yet. We have played good, but not great. We will have to play great,” Priest said.
One challenge the Bears will face in the championship tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. next week will be 18 more holes than usual. In the Big 12 Championship, the teams will compete in four rounds, 72 holes, as opposed to the three round, 54-hole tournaments in the regular season.
Paladino said the team will prepare for the tournament in Kansas by “just trying to make sure we are rested; we need more endurance for 72 holes.” He also said they would have to divide their energy levels up for all four rounds, so as not to get burned out, and will have to play at a steady, consistent level.
Priest is optimistic about his golfers in the Big 12 Championship because of the confidence with which they have recently played.
“They have to clean some things up … [but] they are continuing to get better, and we feel like they can compete with anybody,” he said.
Ultimately, he said, their goal is to bring a Big 12 championship back to Waco.