With freezing temperatures in Kentucky, the men’s golf team took to 70 degree weather in Goodyear, Ariz., to kick off its spring season with an 11th place finish out of 17 teams in the Snowman Getaway hosted by Loyola University.
The team hasn’t seen much action as of late, as freezing temperatures and snow on the ground prevents them from practicing on their home turf at Frances E. Miller Memorial Golf Course.
“Weather is such a big issue,” said Head Coach Eddie Hunt. “It’s a great tournament. It’s pretty much designed for teams that don’t have a chance to practice a lot during the winter months. So it’s pretty much the first outing for most of those teams, and there were some really good teams there.”
The Racers participated in the same tournament last year, bettering their previous finish of 14th in a field of 17 teams. Hunt was glad to see improvement from last season, but he believed his team could have played better. Taking into consideration the team that has only played outside two times since the beginning of the season, he said it was hard to be disappointed.
The team’s lone senior, Jordan Smith, led the Racers with a 36th place finish in the field of 92 golfers. He tallied rounds of 73-76-75 to total the team’s lowest overall score of 224. Junior Duncan McCormick followed at 56th place with rounds of 75-73-80=228. Sophomore Matthew Zakutney shot Murray State’s lowest round of the tournament with a 72 in the final round, shooting 79-79-72=230 over the two days. Juniors Jared Gosser and Preston French rounded out team play sharing 70th place with rounds of 73-81-79=233 and 77-77-79=233, respectively. Junior Brock Simmons scored 79-77-75=231 as an individual in the event, placing 67th.
Hunt was pleased with Smith, McCormick and Zakutney, noting them as standouts over the three rounds.
“Jordan, he’s been our leader all year,” Hunt said. “And I can’t say enough good things about Jordan. He is our hardest working golfer and has been over the years. I think he gave a few shots away during the tournament, but he gives it his all and I was real pleased with his effort. We got a good performance from Duncan. He didn’t play very well in the third round, but that seems to be our trend all year. We can’t ever get everybody playing good at the same time. Matt Zakutney had a really good round the last day.”
Touching down in western Kentucky and finding snow still on the ground, the team is now focusing on getting in what work they can, weather permitting.
With a high chance the team won’t be able to practice outside during the two weeks off, they are focusing on hitting at the indoor facility at Sullivan’s Par 3 Golf Course.
Most players also travel to Paducah, Ky., two or three times a week to hit balls at an indoor facility and take lessons from a professional golfer. Knowing that the team may only see one or two days on the course, Hunt is grateful for their time outside in Arizona.
“We got good weather and we got to play golf for four days,” Hunt said. “So I definitely think it will help us down the road a bit to get out and play some rounds before our next tournament.”
The Racers’ next tournament is the Grover Page Classic, hosted by UT Martin March 9-10 in Jackson, Tenn. Hunt is looking forward to seeing many OVC teams compete and gauging where his team stands. As the weather warms and the season progresses, Hunt is looking for improvement in his players every week, and expecting a little friendly competition.
“I’d be real pleased if everybody just worked hard,” Hunt said. “We’re just going to try to find the best five players, and I think it may take us three or four tournaments to do that, but that’s sometimes good. That’s good competition among the team members.”
Story by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor