Following their third-place finish at the Badger Invitational in Wisconsin last week, the Illinois State men’s golf team was looking for focus to close out the fall season on a high note. On Friday, head coach Ray Kralis talked about the mental toughness of his team and their momentum going into the final tournament of their fall season on Monday and Tuesday.
“We have some momentum going into our final fall event and want to finish it off in a strong fashion,” Kralis said. “So, we continue to emphasize controlling our minds and emotions and trusting in our abilities. We have done a good job of staying in the present and dealing with any adversity that has come our way, and we’ll need to do that again to be competitive.”
Unfortunately, amidst close competition over the past two days, the Redbirds did not fair as well as they had hoped. Competing at the Firestone Invitational, the ’Birds tied for eighth place in a field of 17 teams.
“We saw glimpses of our potential, as we picked up six shots on par on the opening nine and moved up the leaderboard and into contention,” Kralis said. “Unfortunately, a few bad shots at inopportune times on the back nine turned what could have been a special day into a disappointing outcome. While painful in some ways, this will be a valuable learning experience going forward, and I look forward to contending again and achieving our desired outcome. Individually, Parker [Freiburg] played a great round when we needed it to cap off a very solid tournament.”
Freiburg led the way for the ’Birds at the par-72, 7,125 yard North Course at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. His personal best 4-under-par in the third round helped him to match his personal-best overall score of 215 (76-71-68), to tie him for sixth place on the individual leaderboard. Freiburg was a single stroke short of tying for third as an individual, and seven strokes out of first place.
Senior Wils Hawn was next in the ’Birds lineup, firing a three round score of 219 (72-72-75), which tied him for 21st on the crowded individual leaderboard. Hawn bested junior Jordan Fahel by just three strokes, with Fahel finishing with a three-round-score of 222 (75-73-74), good to tie for 32nd among the 90 individual competitors. Rounding out the Redbirds’ lineup was sophomore Tyler Gentilella, who carded a score of 227 (77-76-74), while freshman Kyle Meihofer shot for 237 (78-83-76).
As a team, the ’Birds finished with a three-round score of 883 (300-292-291), tying with Davidson College for eighth place overall. South Carolina-Aiken, came away in first place on Tuesday, firing a team score of 871 in three rounds. Rounding out the top five were Washington State, Eastern Michigan, Kansas State and St. Mary’s (Cal.), respectively.
Despite seeing the end result as disappointing, Kralis still had positive things to say about his team.
“From a team standpoint, we have made big steps forward this fall in part because of and despite some bumps in the road,” Kralis said. “We are much stronger now than at the start of the season, and we are nowhere near done yet.”