The Saluki men’s golf team is set to head out to Sunrise Beach, Missouri this weekend in preparation for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Monday and Tuesday.
Just a week after the women’s team took home MVC championship honors and for seniors Luke Gannon and Peyton Wilhoit they are hoping to duplicate those efforts on the men’s side.
“Them winning, now I’m just sitting here like not saying we have to go win, but we have to go win,” Wilhoit said. “In the nicest way possible, I don’t want them to win and us not to win.”
Gannon said in light of the women’s team winning he is hoping to add another trophy to the case for the second time during his tenure here at SIU, after winning the championship his freshman season in 2016.
“We both want each other to do well,”Gannon said.”It’d be nice if we could say us seniors have two versus their one.”
In the pre-championship poll, released on Friday voted on by all the coaches in the conference Southern was selected to finish second behind Illinois State, the unanimous choice for first.
“It really doesn’t matter to me where we’re picked,because anything can happen,”Gannon said.
Both Gannon and Wilhoit have gotten the opportunity to play against Illinois State this season, in three tournaments, with the last being the Boilermaker Invitational hosted by Purdue where the Redbirds finished first.
“I’ve only played with Trent [Wallace] once, obviously they’re a good team there’s no hiding that,”Wilhoit said.”There’s not a bit of me that thinks we couldn’t beat them.”
As far as Illinois State having the hot hand coming into the tournament, Wilhoit said his mentality is not looking towards the Redbirds but towards himself.
“If I was being brutally honest, I wouldn’t care what anyone else is doing,” Wilhoit said. “I’m going to go out and play the best golf I can.”
Golf unlike most sports lacks the head to head matchups you see in basketball or baseball, but it makes the sport unique in it’s own way.
“In other sports you kind of head to head matchup game planning for them,”Wilhoit said. “But for us it’s just like go take care of ourselves and the rest will play the way it should.”
The last time either player won the MVC championship was their freshman year in 2016 and that year they overcame tournament favorite Wichita State to take the trophy home.
“We’ve experienced coming from behind in a championship and winning,” Gannon said. “I know Peyton and I have the most experience in that and can help the others feel the underdog mentality.”
Looking back to freshman year as to what went right for them in winning it that year Gannon recalled how the team came together.
“Honestly we played pretty bad for a while, like the regular season was not good.” Gannon said.”But we knew through the competition we’d seen we were trending in the right direction.”
Even though golf is very much an individual sport looking back on that year Wilhoit recalled they were playing as a team.
“That year was probably the best job we’ve been at being a team in such an individual sport,”Wilhoit said.” Guys had each others backs and it felt like every time you were out there playing, you were playing for four other guys.”
As far as if the team this year has the same chemistry which brought a trophy back to Carbondale in 2016, Wilhoit believes it is there.
“I think we’re going the same way with our team this year,” Wilhoit said. “I think this year’s team has more talent, no offense to the team that was there freshman year, I’ve got total faith in what we can go do.”
Last season Southern took home second in the championship behind Bradley and Wilhoit said he did not play his best and expects to elevate his play heading into the postseason.
“Last conference I didn’t play very good at all,I think that’s probably a scenario where I could learn the most” Wilhoit said .”Realizing that when you’re playing just one event for the postseason, you’ve got to be just a little bit tougher than you’ve been the rest of the year.”
As far as both golf teams having the opportunity to raise the MVC championship trophy Wilhoit said it would be one of the best ways to end his Saluki career.
“What more could you say than both teams winning conference,” Wilhoit said. “If we go win it, that would be one of the better ways to send my career out.”
Regardless of what happens Monday and Tuesday in the conference championship, both Wilhoit and Gannon are chasing the single season scoring average record as they close their careers.
“I know Peyton and I are in the running for lowest single scoring average in a season,” Gannon said. “He’s got me by six shots, I’m trying to turn that around this week.”
Adam Warfel, Sports Editor, can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.
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