Daily Egyptian

Storms thwart Saluki conference dreams

By Tyler Davis

Severe weather slammed the Midwest and suspended play at the Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Golf Championship.

The first and second rounds were scheduled for Monday in Silvis but when severe storms hit, officials ended play by 4:30 p.m. The second round had begun, but was suspended until 8 a.m. Tuesday because of lightning in the area.

Coach Leroy Newton has seen his team struggle through tough weather conditions all season and said they cannot blame high scores on bad weather.

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“The conditions, the weather, the greens were not ideal,” Newton said. “But we can’t use that as an excuse. We’ve played in these conditions before. I think the big thing was that this was almost everyone’s first conference tournament.”

On Tuesday, the weather improved but remained windy and humid. After a respectable score of 306 in the first round, the Salukis had the worst second round of any team, shooting 311, which landed them in seventh out of nine teams.

Wichita State University claimed its seventh straight MVC Men’s Golf Championship as the Shockers shot 874 on the par-71, TPC Deere Run golf course. Wichita has won 12 of the last 15 conference titles and has finished in either first or second for 17 straight seasons.

Newton said Wichita State has the financial means to maintain its dominance as well as good coaching, but he believes the Shockers can be taken down.

“They remind me of the Yankees. They have a great program, lots of money, I understand, a good coach and great facilities,” he said. “They have some really good players but we’ve come close to them, and Illinois State almost had them this year.”

The host school, Illinois State University, was three shots back of WSU, at 877. Bradley University came in third, posting an 897; their best finish in conference play since 1986.

SIU, which was projected to finish last in the tournament, shot 919.

Individually, Wichita State senior Chandler Rusk won the tournament after defeating ISU sophomore Tyler Gentilella on the third playoff hole. The two were tied at 215 after the third round.

Sophomore Drew Novara led the Salukis, tying for 18th in the field of 45 golfers. Junior Steve Souchek was the only other SIU golfer to break the top 20, finishing tied for 20th.

Several players said one positive takeaway from the season was the experience gained golfing in rain and wind, even if they struggled. The team played half of its regular season tournaments in such conditions. The Salukis averaged a 15th place finish when it rained compared to an average finish of fourth when rain was not a factor.

“It was a struggle like every other tournament this year,” senior Caleb Harms said. “On Monday, it was pretty miserable. It was windy so that made it colder and it rained a little bit and we had a rain delay.”

Even with the low finish to end the season, the Salukis were confident in their abilities moving forward. Though the team did not meet expectations, the group still set a school record for the best round in SIU history when they combined for a 278 two weeks ago at the Tennessee State Big Blue Intercollegiate.

Novara said with the four returning golfers from this tournament, as well as other golfers on the roster, he expects big things from the Salukis moving forward.

“I have some pretty high expectations coming into next season,” Novara said. “We’re losing Caleb (Harms), which is a pretty big loss, but I think if guys work hard in the offseason, and I think they will, we can make an impact next season.”

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @TDavis_DE or at 539-3311 ext. 269.

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