NIU men’s golf: Huskies struggle at Liberty Spring Invitational

By Steve Shonder

Men’s golf once again ran into trouble in the third round, shooting 25 strokes higher than their tournament-best this weekend.

The Huskies (287, 290, 312, 889) finished in eighth place Saturday at the Liberty Spring Invitational in Amherst, Va. The No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners (283, 279, 285, 847) placed first and were 15 strokes ahead of the No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels (282, 285, 295, 862), which placed second. Junior Nick Huggins (70, 73, 73, 216) posted his second-lowest score of the season and finished 12th, which is his best finish of the season. Six golfers finished tied for first with a score of 213.

After the first two rounds Friday, the Huskies were in fifth and within three strokes of third place. Junior Jordan Wetsch (69, 73, 82, 224) was tied for eighth through the first two rounds after shooting three-under par in the tournament opener. Wetsch finished tied for 31st with sophomore Raphael Denais (74, 71, 79, 224). The Huskies were just one-over par heading into the third round.

“I was very pleased with the 36-hole day,” said head coach Tom Porten. “You can’t win a tournament in the first or even second round, but you can lose it. We did a very good job of playing team golf. All five of our players were playing at or near their capabilities. Jordan played really well in the morning. The afternoon yesterday, we got some rain and wind, and we shot a few shots worse. I was pleased with our performance across the board.”

NIU ran into trouble putting in the third round Saturday. With the exception of Huggins, every Huskie shot their worst score of the tournament Saturday. Huggins, despite recording a trio of bogies, managed to shoot just one-over par in the third round.

“He was the one guy who did all three rounds very well,” Porten said. “He was patient with himself and with the golf course. He didn’t try to force too many shots. He didn’t have too many difficult putts. He was putting the ball in the right spot. He did a pretty good job. He took advantage of several par-5s. He chipped and putted his ball very well all week. It was good to see him bounce back from the previous tournament at FAU, he really struggled the last round and half with the putter and the work he put in certainly paid off.”

The Huskies struggled with their play on the greens Saturday. They combined for 30 bogies, one double-bogey and four triple-bogies in the third round alone. Porten said the greens were faster and the Huskies ran into trouble with ball placement on the slopes, which they weren’t able to play off.

“Joo and Jordan and Raphael, all three putted a couple of times and that’s giving shots away,” Porten said. “If you can’t putt for that par, it’s not just losing strokes; it caused a few of our guys to lose their confidence and lose their nerve. We tried to do some cheerleading, but they got down and they were too aggressive in trying to make up those shots. That’s not a recipe for success.”