Huskies struggles at Poppy Hills

Men’s golf finishes fall season with 17th place finish in stacked tournament

Freshman+Ben+Sluzas+lines+up+a+putt+at+the+Saint+Marys+Invitational+in+Pebble+Beach%2C+California+on+Nov.+8.

Wes Sanderson | Northern Star

Freshman Ben Sluzas lines up a putt at the Saint Mary’s Invitational in Pebble Beach, California on Nov. 8.

Skyler Kisellus, Assistant Sports Editor

DeKALB — Men’s golf closed out its fall competitive schedule with a 17th place finish at the Saint Mary’s Invitational Wednesday in Pebble Beach, California.

NIU recorded a score of 26-over par at the event after sinking 11 spots on the leaderboard due to problems with the team’s stroke count.

“It was really a tale of two different days,” head coach John Carlson said.

The Huskies were paired with sixth-ranked Stanford University for the first day of competition in California. NIU opened the round with six birdies, an eagle and eight bogeys from their top four performers. The performance put them at even-par after nine holes. NIU was able to shave off its bogey count to just three in the final nine holes of the first round and added a birdie to its total score to bring their score down to one-under par.

Graduate student Michael Cascino tees off on a hole at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California on Nov. 9. NIU finished 17th out of 19 teams in the Saint Mary’s Invitational that concluded Nov. 11. (Wes Sanderson | Northern Star)

NIU ended the first round in a three-way tie for sixth place with the tournament host, Saint Mary’s College of California, and Fresno State University at one-under par.

“Our team knows we belong in the conversation to play in the NCAA (playoffs),” Carlson said. “They were motivated coming into this tournament (and) played a solid round of golf.”

NIU lost a step during Tuesday’s second round, tallying 18 bogeys and a double bogey in the opening half of the round between all five competitors. The Huskies continued to add up strokes as the round began to close. The team combined for eight bogeys, four double bogeys and two triple bogeys in the final nine holes of the round.

After discounting the scores from the lowest performer of the round, NIU’s score went to 19-over after the opening two rounds, dropping them eleven places.

“The effort was there (Tuesday),” Carlson said. “Giving shots away around the green made for a disappointing after-round feeling with our team, knowing that we (were then), we had to play a great round of golf in order to get back to where we were at the beginning of the second round.”

NIU opened the final round Wednesday faced with similar problems on the scorecard. The Huskies top-four competitors combined for eight bogeys, a double and triple bogey in the first nine holes of the third round, to just three birdies among the four men.

Although the Huskies attempted to redeem themselves in the final nine holes of the tournament, its six bogeys against three birdies were unable to raise them any higher on the leaderboard. NIU concluded the Saint Mary’s Invitational ranked 17th out of 19 teams in the competition field.

The University of Oregon took home  the tournament championship with a 19-under par performance. University of Nevada senior Quim Vidal Mora topped the individual leaderboard at 11-under par.

Graduate student Michael Cascino headlined the Huskies’ efforts, posting a score of two-over par to finish in a five-way tie for 34th place. Senior Tommy Dunsire was the next best effort with a five-over par outing, finishing in a three-way tie for 53rd place.

“(Cascino) drove the ball great the entire tournament,” Carlson said. “He has a very classy short game and that was on display all week.”

The Huskies were also required to take the conditions created by their proximity to the Pacific Ocean into account during their time competing on the west coast.

“The biggest challenge was adjusting to the effect of the ocean when we were on the green,” Carlson said. “There was a significant difference in speed when putting towards or away from the ocean. It was just something you had to be aware of.”

The Huskies will now have the winter months to settle down as their fall competition schedule is now complete. Their next outing will be at the Aggie Invitational on April 9, 2022, at Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas for the first tournament of the spring competition schedule.