After a ninth place finish in Louisiana, the University of South Dakota men’s golf team will travel to Illinois for a tournament at Summit League foe Western Illinois.
The team is improving, having moved up three positions from their previous tournament. Head coach Nick Hovden said a majority of the improvement came from a great opening round.
“We started off playing great, shooting our lowest round of the year, 293, placing us second after round one, Hovden said. “However, we followed that up with two of our highest scores of the season. We were all disappointed with our finish. We’ll learn from it and move on.”
This tournament will be key for the Coyotes to see how they match up against other Summit League contenders, as the Conference Championship is only a month away.
“Right now, we are in the middle of the pack of the Summit League,” first- year player Dakota Clark said. “Once we get all three solid rounds going, we will be running for the title of the Summit League.”
The team has fought the unpredictable weather this spring and has only been able to practice inside the DakotaDome.
“Not being able to see the entire flight of the ball definitely hurts your confidence when you first start playing again,” junior Miles Death said. “A lot of times, you may develop bad habits hitting inside.”
Unable to practice outside, the Coyotes have been forced to learn on the run, only playing outdoors in tournament action. However, the averages are going down for the team.
“Our scoring averages as a team is, overall, two strokes lower, which is a positive thing considering we haven’t practiced outside for months,” Hovden said. “Our first event of the season at Sacramento State, we actually shot our lowest team total of the year, 897.”
The Sacramento State Tournament was the first time the Coyotes cracked the 900 mark all season,.
“If we drop our scoring averages for rounds two and three, there’s no reason we won’t be able to win the Summit League Tournament this year,” Death said.
Dropping the averages will help the team get out of the middle of the Summit League, and Clark said this weekend will be an opportunity to gain confidence going into April.
“Next week, we will focus on getting three solid rounds of golf on the leader board to get us ready for the Summit League Championship in Texas,” Clark said.
The change in scenery will be a hurdle for the Coyotes, the last two tournaments have been in warm-weather conditions, but temperatures in Maycomb, Ill. are projected in the 40s.
“The course is still dormant, and in a winter state, mental toughness will be key in scoring well at Western Illinois,” Hovden said.
Regardless of the weather, the Coyotes are looking to work out the kinks.
As Clark put it, “This tournament will get the team in the zone for being ready at the conference tournament.”