MADISON, Wis. - After Friday's opening round at the Badger Invitational, all Indiana head coach Mike Mayer
wanted was improvement in his men's golf team over the weekend. Yesterday, the Hoosiers improved eight strokes as a team, and saw three of its five players card lower scores than their first rounds.
In the final round Sunday, the Hoosiers continued to improve as Indiana fired a 2-under-par 286 to finish in seventh place with 870 (296-288-286). Indiana's third-round score marked the lowest team total for the Hoosiers since they shot a 284 in the second round of the 2001 Marshall Invitational.
In fact, Indiana fired its best 18-hole and tied its low 54-hole Badger Invitational round. The Hoosiers fired a 287 in the 1987 event and won the same year with a score of 870.
Highlighting Indiana's performance on Sunday was sophomore Jeff Overton, who carded a 3-under-par 69 to finish tied for 14th overall and with team medalist honors with 215 (73-73-69). The Evansville, Ind. native birdied five holes and carded only two bogeys in his round, which ties his third-best round in his young collegiate career.
"Jeff managed his way around the golf course pretty good this weekend," said Mayer. "I think he was a little too cautious at the start of the tournament and held back a little. Once he became comfortable, he started to play they way he's capable of playing. Jeff left a couple of opportunities out there, but I was really pleased with his score today. We'll take a round in the 60s in any tournament."
Senior Mike Miller eagled the par-five 16th Sunday to move to 2-under-par in his round on the day, but suffered bogeys at 17 and 18 to finish with an even-par 72. The Farragut, Tenn. native, who led the Hoosiers in this event last year, fired a 219 (75-72-72), which tied his career low 54-hole total. Ironically, Miller fired the same total in last year's Badger Invitational.
"It is so important to have Mike Miller back in our lineup this year," Mayer said. "I'm pleased with how he played this weekend, but it would have been nice to see him finish stronger today. Coming off the eagle at 16, he backed it up with two straight bogeys, which obviously cost him a better round than his 72. Again, Mike's performance this weekend was great, but I know he is capable of lower numbers than that and we're hoping to see those scores this year."
Improvement was the key for the Hoosiers this weekend and Heath Peters and senior captain Ben Davidson displayed that. Davidson, who was appointed captain by Mayer on Tuesday, might have felt a little added pressure coming into the Badger Invitational as he opened with a nine-over-par 81. The Indianapolis, Ind. native struck back on the weekend however, carding a 2-under-par 70 on Saturday and an even-par 72 today.
Mayer noted that it was a tweaking of Davidson's mental game, rather than his swing, that took some stress away from his game.
"After Ben's opening round, we didn't mess with his swing at all," the Hoosier coach noted. "I think Ben may have had a little undue pressure on him with being named captain. After a talk with him on Friday night, he gained a lot of confidence and I don't think we'll see anymore big numbers like that from him this year."
As for Peters, the sophomore struggled throughout the majority of the tournament with rounds of 78 and 76 his first two days. The native of Garrett, Ind. survived with a 73-a round that included an eagle and three birdies, but two bogeys and a double-bogey as well.
Senior Aldo Jordan, who competed towards the top of the leaderboard in the opening round, struggled in his last three holes Sunday and finished with a 75. Jordan, a native of Lima, Peru, found himself unable to advance his ball in a greenside bunker on the 16th hole, which cost him one shot with a bogey. Jordan double-bogeyed the 17th and added a par on No. 18 for a disappointing 40 on his back nine.
Toledo successfully defended its Badger Invitational title, as they once again scorched the field on Sunday with a field-best 277 to finish with a 21-under-par 843 performance. Toledo shattered the tournament record of 853 (-11), which they set last year on the University Ridge Golf Course layout.
Illinois finished second with 851 (-13) and Penn State placed third with 854 (-10).
Toledo's Brad Haven won medalist honors with a 208, which included back-to-back rounds of 67 to end the tournament.
Looking back on the tournament for Indiana, Mayer notes the improvement of his team from not only Friday, but from last year's last-place finish in this event.
"We are obviously a better team than what we were at this point last year, but more important is that we are a better team than what we were on Friday," Mayer said. "We cut down on our mistakes and played the kind of golf we need to play to compete with these teams. This tournament had a very tough field and we knew that coming in. We continued to adjust throughout the weekend and even though 288 was a good score yesterday, it wasn't going to be good enough to compete in this field. We challenged ourselves to go out today and try to shoot under par and we did that. I'm really happy with how we played, and I think this gives us a lot of things to work off of leading into our next tournament."
The Hoosiers will have next week off and then return to the links at the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational on September 21-22. The event will be played in Yorktown, Ind., which is just outside of Muncie, and will be hosted by Ball State University.