SIU men’s golf headed to Louisville for NCAA regional tournament

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SIU men’s golf headed to Louisville for NCAA regional tournament

Seniors Peyton Wilhoit, of Searcy, Ariz., and Hunter York, of Decatur, react to their selection alongside the rest of the golf team on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Copper Dragon in Carbondale. York said, “It’s Louisville so it is convenient and close, it's a great place [...] we’re super excited to get there and play in Nationals.”

Seniors Peyton Wilhoit, of Searcy, Ariz., and Hunter York, of Decatur, react to their selection alongside the rest of the golf team on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Copper Dragon in Carbondale. York said, “It’s Louisville so it is convenient and close, it's a great place [...] we’re super excited to get there and play in Nationals.”

Carson VanBuskirk | @carsonvanbDE

Seniors Peyton Wilhoit, of Searcy, Ariz., and Hunter York, of Decatur, react to their selection alongside the rest of the golf team on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Copper Dragon in Carbondale. York said, “It’s Louisville so it is convenient and close, it's a great place [...] we’re super excited to get there and play in Nationals.”

Carson VanBuskirk | @carsonvanbDE

Carson VanBuskirk | @carsonvanbDE

Seniors Peyton Wilhoit, of Searcy, Ariz., and Hunter York, of Decatur, react to their selection alongside the rest of the golf team on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Copper Dragon in Carbondale. York said, “It’s Louisville so it is convenient and close, it's a great place [...] we’re super excited to get there and play in Nationals.”

By Adam Warfel, Sports Editor

Another week, another moment for the golf programs at Southern Illinois. This time it was the men’s team who sat in Copper Dragon and waited to see the Saluki logo come up on the screen.

After the one seeds in each region were named, the Salukis had to wait no longer as the Louisville regional went up – Southern sitting at the 13 seed.

“I was kind of surprised honestly,” senior Luke Gannon said. “The guide predicted Washington, that [guide] also predicted the women’s team there.”

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For senior Peyton Wilhoit seeing the number 13 next to the name Southern Illinois was surprising to him.

“I saw 13 and felt a little disrespected,” Wilhoit said. “If that’s the way rankings play out, that’s the way the rankings play out, I didn’t exactly expect to see us a bottom seed in a region.”

For Gannon, he said getting the 13 seed will serve as a chip on the shoulder for the players on the team.

“I’m kind of surprised we were 13, we thought we would be at least one higher,” Gannon said.”That is a little bit of a chip on the shoulder, we know we can compete.”

Southern has served as the underdog in both Missouri Valley Tournaments titles the team has won during Wilhoit’s tenure here in Carbondale.

“As I was sitting there on that couch, I remembered colleges were telling me I wasn’t good enough,” Wilhoit said. “Now here it feels like the NCAA is saying hey you guys are still bottom of the pack here.”

Head coach Justin Fetcho looks forward to getting the chance to show people Southern deserved better than a 13 seed.

“We’ve been the underdogs all year long, this is another opportunity for us to prove people wrong,” Fetcho said. “It doesn’t waver our confidence within our team.”

As far as the approach heading into Louisville for these men, Wilhoit does not expect the game plan to change for the Salukis.

“I don’t feel like there is anything special we gotta go do,” Wilhoit said. “For me on an individual level I’m just trying to sharpen the putter a little bit, just trying to hit better putts.”

For Wilhoit this is his third NCAA appearance in four years at Southern, competing his freshman year with the team and just last year as an individual.

“I think the players we have are battle tested,” Wilhoit said. “They don’t need to teach on how to play in a bigger event, just go play another golf tournament.”

Gannon joins Wilhoit as another player on this team which has had the opportunity to compete before in the NCAA tournament. Gannon believes this year is different than his freshman campaign though.

“Going to regionals freshman year, we were there, but we weren’t really there in terms of thinking we could compete,” Gannon said. “I think this year we are just a lot better than we ever were freshman year.”

Freshman Matthis Besard mentioned even he believed the team is going into the tournament with different expectations than the 2016 team.

“We went to regionals three years ago and I think the atmosphere is different,” Besard said. “Now we know that we can go out there and actually do something, regionals is not our end.”

The senior leadership on this team from both Gannon , Wilhoit and Hunter York will be big heading into the NCAA tournament.

“Through the whole year they’ve been there for us,” Besard said. “They’ve been the senior leaders to go to regionals with them is special.”

Having that experience on the team can be beneficial for a team and Fetcho believes it can help to calm the nerves of those who have not experienced an NCAA regional.

“We have guys in the room that have been there and done that,” Fetcho said. “When you’re kind of knocking on the heels and you’ve got guys that maybe are a little bit nervous, you’ve got senior leaders or people who have been there to be able to help guys out.”

SIU is playing its best golf heading into the NCAA regionals, having gone four straight tournaments under par.

“We’re on a four tournament stretch where I think we’re like 34, 35 under par,” Fetcho said. “I can’t imagine any better feeling heading into this, we’re playing really good golf.”

As far as to what has led to the men playing their best golf right now Fetcho credited their confidence and the practice that they have put in.

“Part of it has been a confidence thing,” Fetcho said. “The guys have really transformed in practice, we’ve been more focused, we’ve been more dedicated, we’ve really put a sense of getting the most out of our practice every day.”

Regardless of what happens on the course next week for SIU, the impact both Gannon and Wilhoit have had on the golf program will not go unnoticed.

“Peyton and Luke have had a huge impact on this team,” Besard said. “Basically that’s why I came here because coach told me players keep getting better, you can be one of them.”

Fetcho is not looking forward to the day these two men leave the SIU men’s golf program and called them hall of fame level players.

“I dread the day those guys are gone from the program, they bought in when nothing happened, we didn’t have a history, we didn’t have a tradition and those guys came and made it there own,” Fetcho said. “I think that those are going to be two guys that are going to go down as two of the best players that have ever come through here, I think we’re going to see them in the hall of fame.”

Southern will look to use the chip on it’s shoulder and the senior leadership with all eyes set on a national championship. The quest for the next trophy begins for the Salukis at the Louisville regional May 13 through the 15th.

Adam Warfel, Sports Editor, can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.

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