It took four fall tournaments, but the Idaho men’s golf team finally came away with a team title, finishing ahead of all opposition at the UTEP Miner Invite last weekend in El Paso, Texas.
Additionally, senior Gordon Webb shot a tournament-best 208 to run away with an individual title, the first of his Vandal career.
Coach John Means said the team had cancelled out of a tournament the previous week to tune up a few things ahead of the Invite.
“It was something special … The guys worked really hard for the additional week and we went down there and all the work paid off, especially Gordon,” Means said.
Webb began the tournament with a double bogey on the first hole, responded with a few birdies and found himself in contention for the individual crown following the first round, when he trailed Northern Colorado’s Charlie Mroz by just two strokes.
Webb improved on his first round 70 in the second round by shooting a 68, which would move him into the lead. The Western New Mexico transfer was one of three players to shoot a final round 70, which was easily good enough to remain atop the leaderboard.
The second-best competitors were New Mexico State’s Justin Shin and Utah State’s Justin Bankhead, who fired 212, four strokes shy of Webb.
Means is pleased to know his senior’s “pedigree” may finally be synonymous with his match play.
“Everything says that he’s going to be a great college player … But he never did it at this level,” Means said. “It was always back there in the pedigree, and he showed that he can do it and I think you’ll see more of the same performance from Gordon in the spring.”
Webb’s championship performance was certainly key to the team title, but two of his teammates, both underclassmen, turned in top-11 scores to propel Idaho past Texas-Arlington, who finished nine strokes behind the Vandals.
Sophomore Aaron Cockerill was seventh with a two-under 214 Sean McMullen, another sophomore, shot a 216 to tie for 11th place. Freshman Dylan Baker and senior Mark Giorgi rounded out the Vandals’ efforts with 33rd- and 54th-place finishes, respectively.
Means noticed an improvement in the team’s short game, and while he complimented Webb’s calmness throughout the tournament, this was a theme that he noticed from the team as a whole.
“We putted better, we worked really hard on that from our last tournament to this one,” Means said. “The overall calmness of the guys, which is something we talk about all the time — but it’s one thing to talk about it and it’s another thing to go out and make a seven or an eight on a hole and forget it and let it go and do what you’re trained to do.”
In almost exactly four months, Idaho hits the course to begin its spring season, when Means expects the competition to heat up.
With a number of players capable of earning travel spots, he expects more individual and team titles come February. Idaho will partake in six team tournaments, two in Arizona, two in California and two in Nevada.
“This is a very strong team. I’ve got a couple players back here that are strong that want to get back out there and play and it’s the competition between those players that makes this team strong,” Means said.
Theo Lawson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org