If it wasn’t for a poor second round at the WAC Men’s Golf Championship, this story might have been an NCAA tournament preview for the Idaho men’s golf team — but instead, it’s a season review.
During the second round of play, Idaho shot 10-over-par. Remove that score and just use rounds one and two and the Vandals would have won over champion New Mexico State by three strokes.
“The second round of conference cost us dearly,” Idaho coach John Means said. “When they got in trouble they pressed instead of relaxing, and playing golf like they know how to play … We shot a high score in the second day, otherwise we would have been right there to compete for the championship.”
Means compared the season to a rollercoaster ride. He said the team demonstrated they could play with the best teams in the country, but weren’t able to play consistently at that level. With three first-year players, Means said he attributes the inconsistent play with how young the team was.
“Every tournament that I would go to, every single one, I would leave here so excited because I know how good we are,” Means said. “I don’t want to say that potentially they can be good, because they’re good, but they just couldn’t bring it tournament after tournament.”
Excluding the second round, Means said the young group of players blossomed at the WAC Championship.
“They showed up to play and showed everybody how good they are,” Means said. “You can tell by all the awards they took home from the conference championship, that these guys can play — we took home five awards.”
Idaho finished the season ranked 112th on golfweek.com, but there’s reason to believe that number won’t drop next season and in the foreseeable future, too.
Alex Pounds was the lone senior on the roster, so Idaho will return seven players next season when it moves to the Big Sky Conference. It will be the first season that the Big Sky sponsors men’s golf.
“I think for the first time since I’ve been here, this is going to be the healthiest that we’ve been,” Means said of his roster.
Idaho returns five players who started in all six-spring tournaments — Aaron Cockerill, Sean McMullen, Rylee Iacolucci, Ryan Porch and Jared du Toit — along with Chris Wilson and Scott Riley. Means said even though Wilson and Riley didn’t play in spring, the two improved their game tremendously.
Idaho will add three new players to its roster next season — Ian Kim from Canada, Dan Sutton from England and Moscow native Cooper Wright.
Means said he expects good things from the new Vandals, and for all three to compete for playing time next year.
With summer just days away, the men’s golf team won’t get much vacation time — all will be competing in numerous tournaments throughout break and getting ready for next season.
Means said he wants his team to come back mentally stronger.
“Every tournament has to be the most important thing that you have ever done, and once it’s over you have to let it go,” Means said. “Win or lose, you have to move on to the next one.”
Korbin McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org