Men’s golf tees off at Ball State, NIU’s Huggins shines

By Sean Anderson

NIU men’s golf began play in Ball State’s Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational in Muncie, Ind., Monday. Sophomore Nick Huggins was the highlight of day one.

Unlike most tournaments on NIU’s schedule, this event features completely individual competition only; no team standings will be kept.

Joining NIU and Ball State at the Delaware Country Club are Bowling Green, Indiana, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Notre Dame, Ohio and Toledo.

Huggins sat in first place overall as he shot a three-under par, 67, which is six shots better than his previous best score. He has a two-shot lead heading into round two.

Assistant coach Andrew Frame, who is filling in for coach Tom Porten as he helps the women’s golf team, said the difference for Huggins was his putting.

“Nick played fantastic in the morning,” Frame said. “He has really been struggling with his short game, with his putter specifically. He is going through an equipment change–he got a new putter. He had six birdies and he putted great. He was also hitting it straight. That is a really good recipe for success on a golf course like this.”

Huggins said adding two new clubs was the difference in the way he shot Monday.

“I started playing well for the first time in awhile,” Huggins said. “I hit some good shots and I had it going early. The new putter definitely made a difference today; I made some six 10-foot birdies. I also got a new driver which I like. I am hitting it more flatter and straighter which is giving me more control. It’s been the combination of those two, which was the difference so far.”

Senior Matt Gorman had the second lowest score for the Huskies with a first round score of five-over par, 75 leaving him tied for 22nd. Senior Greg Pohlmann was only one shot behind Gorman, as he shot a 76 and is tied for 25th.

Freshman Connor Nelson, who is making his debut for the Huskies, shot an 11-over par, 81 to sit tied for 40th.

Round two couldn’t be completed as darkness was approaching while the Huskies were in the middle of their rounds.

“Couple of the guys struggled in round one,” Frame said. “Gorman, who shot a 75 in the morning, is currently four under through 15 holes in his second round. If he pars the last few holes he will end up shooting 66 in the second round. He wasn’t pleased with his score and he knew he could play better. He really grinded out a few holes in the second round. Huggins and Gorman are leading the pack as it is for our team.”

This individual tournament allows the players who haven’t played so far in the fall season to showcase their talents before seasons end.

“It gives them an opportunity to compete,” Frame said. “Like Nelson, our freshman, he hasn’t got a chance to compete this year. This is the first year that Ball Sate is doing this tournament for individuals only. They made it to give teams [the] opportunity to bring guys that either haven’t had a chance or just haven’t made the line-up for the fall tournaments. This is really great to get some guys some experience.”