Men’s golf finishes in last place

By Steve Shonder

Men’s golf couldn’t dig its way out of last place, but it did manage to post its best total score in over a year.

The Huskies (305, 300, 303, 908) finished 12th out of 12 teams Monday at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Host Ohio State (283, 291, 285, 859) led the field and finished 12 strokes ahead of the nearest team, Purdue (288, 292, 291, 871).

Junior Jordan Wetsch (75, 70, 73, 218), who led NIU, finished tied for 14th place at just five over par. He was the first Huskie to finish in the top 15 in any tournament this season. He ended the tournament eight strokes behind Kansas State’s Matt Green (67, 73, 70, 210), whose first-round score of 67 propelled him to the top of the leaderboard.

Head coach Tom Porten said he saw big improvements, particularly from Wetsch, but they wasn’t enough.

“It was kind of two sides to the coin,” Porten said. “On one hand, Wetsch played outstanding all tournament. I think we found our No. 1 golfer. He’s been getting better and better with each tournament. He ended Wolf Run [Intercollegiate] well, and he took that momentum into this tournament. I’m very pleased with his performance.

“On the other side, the lack of consistency hurt. … We got two good scores, but we also got two bad scores in every round.”

The Huskies put together a strong second round with a score of 300, which saw them place ahead of Pepperdine (295, 303, 305, 903) and Kansas State (298, 304, 288, 890). They weren’t able to sustain that momentum for the third round, during which NIU placed 11th out of 12 teams.

NIU wasn’t able to keep up with the MAC teams competing at the invitational. Kent State (295, 290, 289, 874) finished fourth, while Miami (Ohio) (298, 296, 295, 889) took eighth place.

Sophomore Raphael Denais (75, 82, 73, 230) recovered well in the third round after posting the team’s worst score in the second round. His third round score of 73 tied Wetsch with the team’s best score of the day.

Porten said the team got good experience from competing against a strong field and said the talent is there, just not the execution yet.

“We’re certainly making better decisions,” Porten said. “We’re playing smarter, but we have to manage our games a little more consistently. When guys start playing like [Wetsch] and [Denais], then we can start moving up the leaderboard. … We’re getting closer to putting a complete tournament together.”