Ranked No.113 on golfweek.com an NCAA tournament at-large bid is out of reach for the Idaho men’s golf team. In order to extend its season, Idaho will have to earn an automatic bid by winning the WAC Championship this weekend in Las Vegas.
Idaho coach John Means said he’s uncertain on how the team will perform at the WAC Championship.
“This is probably the most up and down season I have ever had in my life,” Means said. “It’s been frustrating, because I know what kind of talent they have.”
Idaho played best during the first two tournaments of both the fall and spring seasons. In the fall, Idaho finished in fourth and second place, and in spring the team started out with two third-place finishes.
In those four tournaments, Means said the team played at a national championship caliber — in the other six tournaments, though, not so much.
Idaho failed to build on its early success, and through all 10 tournaments this season its average finish was 7th place.
“It’s tough in golf because if one or two guys play poorly, your team plays poorly,” Means said. “It’s very frustrating, because I know how good they are and I know how hard they work. They have probably worked harder than any other team I’ve had here at Idaho.”
Defending conference champion, New Mexico State, will be Idaho’s toughest competition this weekend. Ranked 67th in the country, NMSU also has the highest returning finisher in sophomore Kenneth Fadke, who finished second with a 4-over par 220 in 2013.
Of the nine teams competing from the WAC, Idaho and NMSU are the only teams ranked in the top 125.
The rest of the conference ranks as follows: Utah Valley 148th, Missouri-Kansas City 158th, Seattle U 215th, Texas-Pan American 262nd, Cal-State Bakersfield 277th, Chicago State 285th. Since it is making the transition from Division II, Grand Canyon isn’t eligible to receive a ranking.
“The WAC has been interesting this year,” Means said. “Just about every team in the WAC has beat one another, except for New Mexico State. They have done a very good job of not playing anybody in the WAC.”
Idaho played NMSU once this season in the Price’s Give ‘Em Five Invitational. NMSU won the tournament, while the Vandals came in eighth. After spending the previous five years at the Rio Secco Golf Club, this year’s championship will be hosted at the Stallion Mountain Golf Club.
While Stallion Mountain is easier, Means said he prefers a course like Rio Secco, which is more difficult. The better players and teams can separate themselves on a harder course, and therefore the best team usually wins.
“Stallion Mountain is a nice golf course, but it’s not a true championship golf course,” Means said. “The one thing I don’t like about it is that it tends to bring the field together … If you don’t have all the shots at Stallion Mountain, that’s okay, you can still shoot a decent score.”
With that being said, Means compared Stallion Mountain to the Palm Valley Golf Club in Goodyear, Arizona, a course they played earlier in the spring at the Deseret Shootout Invitational — in which they finished in third place.
“We shot 20-under-par there, so I got mixed emotions,” Means said of Palm Valley.
This spring, Idaho has gone with the same lineup in all the tournaments, and Means said he won’t change that.
Traveling to ‘Sin City‘ will be juniors Aaron Cockerill and Sean McMullen, sophomore Rylee Iacolucci and freshmen Ryan Porch and Jared du Toit.
“It all depends on who shows up to play for us,” Means said of his expectations for the championship. “Who will be ready emotionally and ready to play 54-holes, grind and give it all they got.”
The WAC Championships will be held May 2-4 and live scoring will be available on the WACsports.com.
Korbin McDonald can be reached at email@example.com