Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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Saluki softball huddles together before facing the California Golden Bears in the first round of the NCAA Regional May 17, 2024 at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo provided by Saluki Athletics
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Valley champion men’s golf takes “pedal-down mentality” into regional play

Photo+provided+by+Saluki+Athletics.
Photo provided by Saluki Athletics.

There wasn’t much of a question heading into the final day of the Missouri Valley Conference men’s golf championship as to who would claim the title.

SIU took a 14-stroke lead into the final day, allowing its golfers to breathe a little easier during the final 18 holes. The Salukis would bring home the title by eight strokes, finishing with a score of 856 over three rounds.

All five of SIU’s golfers placed within the top 20 scorers at the tournament, led by Edouard Cereto, the top finisher overall and the first male golfer in school history to win the individual title.

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SIU head coach Justin Fetcho said, “To be the first one, it was really cool for him, but then to top it off with a team win too, just the whole team’s excited for that.”

Cereto and Leon Heitz tied for the lowest round (67) at the MVC championship held at The Club at Porto Cima in Sunrise Beach, Missouri. SIU also recorded the lowest team round, combining to score a 278.

After starting the spring a little off his game, Cereto has been hot down the stretch, with two first-place finishes in his last three tournaments.

Fetcho recalls the conversation that he and Cereto had before the start of Cereto’s latest run.

“The start of the spring, where he probably didn’t have the finishes he wanted, he came to me and just said, ‘Coach, I just feel like it’s close, even though I haven’t put it together,’” Fetcho said. “And literally, as soon as the words came out of his mouth, the next week he went out and he was successful.”

Though Cereto may be the headliner, it’s far from just a one-man show on the course. Heitz finished tied for eighth after scoring 215, while Dain Richie and Hugo Archer were just one and two strokes behind at 216 and 217. Richie and Archer placed in ties for 10th and 12th, respectively. Andrew Thornton also placed in a tie for 18th and shot a 222.

Richie and Cereto both represented SIU on the MVC All-Conference team. In addition to being the conference champion, Cereto also won Newcomer of the Year.

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While this is some of the first recognition that Cereto has received while at SIU, he doesn’t plan on it being the last.

”I want to be in the history books of the school… just putting my name, the French guy from Paris, putting his name at SIU,” Cereto said.

This season’s talented lineup broke the program record for the lowest single-season scoring average, which speaks to the ability, competitiveness and depth of the lineup. In golf, only five athletes play in any given event, meaning teammates are constantly competing with each other trying to make the traveling roster or to move up a spot in the lineup.

“Four out of the five guys that traveled at some point in the season, they have led the team at an event, they’ve been the low guy at an event,” Fetcho said. “We have been able to have different people be able to step up.”

This depth gives Fetcho a lot of confidence about the potential ceiling of the team and how far it may be able to go.

“We have firepower at the top, but we also have firepower at the bottom,” Fetcho said. “We’re not necessarily looking for one guy to play well for us to do well. It’s more looking at the collective group and saying, ‘If all five guys stay in this thing, we’ve got a really good shot of being able to play at a high level,’ so hopefully we’ll continue that momentum across the board as we head into regionals.”

The team’s first-place performance at the MVC championship match earned it a ticket to an NCAA Regional. The Dawgs will compete at the Kampen-Cosler Course in West Lafayette, Indiana, on May 13-15, with a chance to advance to NCAA Nationals.

Though it’s the biggest stage many members of the team have ever golfed on, Fetcho says that there aren’t any major changes being made during preparation for the match.

“We’ve pretty much tried to do everything the same as what we’ve been doing, so when we arrive it’s just another day in the office for us,” Fetcho said. “It’s just another event and we try not to make it any different than anything else.”

It should also be noted that this isn’t uncharted territory for the Salukis and Fetcho. While several current golfers are in their first NCAA regional, the Dawgs have won four of the last eight MVC Championships. Fetcho has been the coach for three of those titles.

While Fetcho doesn’t think there’s any “secret formula” to building a consistent program, he lays out a simple blueprint for how the Salukis have built and maintained a successful program.

“We’ve been able to attract really good players that want to come here and work hard that have been coachable. We preach discipline and toughness and competitiveness, and we try to really structure almost every single day around that. All of our practices are fairly competitive; some are highly competitive. Every day, we’re striving to get better.”

While the team culture can be centered around competitiveness, it’s ultimately left up to the athletes to play the game.

“It’s up to the players that come here to do all those things. I mean, as much as I would want to, I don’t hit any of the shots out there,” Fetcho said.

Even with all of the records that have been achieved this season and the accolades the team has received, Fetcho and his team are staying focused on what’s in front of them.

“We keep the pedal down. We’re always in a pedal-down mentality.”

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