Redbirds take second in MVC

Photo Courtesy of ISU Athletics: Tyler Gentilella led ISU with a first-round par.

Photo Courtesy of ISU Athletics: Tyler Gentilella led ISU with a first-round par.

The men’s golf season has come to a close after their second place finish in the MVC championship at TPC Deere Run Golf Course in Silvis, Ill. The team finished the tournament with a team score of 877 (297-294-286) with dramatic improvements in every round, despite unfavorable weather conditions that caused a rain delay in the second round.

Head coach Ray Kralis was proud of his team’s success throughout the entire season.

“It’s tough to end this season,” Kralis said. “The guys have battled, competed and grown both as individuals and as a team. I couldn’t have asked anything more.”

The Redbirds ended the first day of play sitting in first place with Wichita State close on their heels. The first day consisted of the first round of play and 13 holes of the second round after afternoon thunderstorms delayed the rest of the round until the next morning.

After the first day Tyler Gentilella led all individual golfers in the tournament with his score of par through the first round and 13 holes in the second. Senior Wils Hawn contributed greatly on the first day with a 72 in the first round, tying him for 16th place through 11 holes in the second round. Jordan Fahel completed 12 holes of the second round and is tied for 20th place with a first round score of 78. Josh Edison shot a 76 in the first round but also ended his day tied for 20th with Fahel after playing through 12 holes of the second round. Parker Freiburg’s 80 in the first round and play through nine holes in the second round earned him a tie for 25th place at the conclusion of the first day.

Coach Kralis was satisfied with the first day’s results but knew his team had to stay mentally tough through the second day.

“The golf course is a great test, and the weather conditions were certainly a factor today,” Kralis said. “We can expect more of the same tomorrow, so we’ll continue to emphasize patience and mental toughness. Tyler was solid all day, and he and Wils set the tone for us in the opening round with strong performances. We are gaining momentum collectively, and our depth from top to bottom works in our favor as everyone is making a contribution.”

“As a competitor, it doesn’t get any better as we are right in the thick of it with one day to go at the conference championship,” Kralis added. “This is what the preparation and hard work through the season are for, and our schedule, experiences, and development as a team this year have prepared us for what we will face tomorrow.”

After an 8 a.m. shotgun start on day two, the Redbirds were ready to chase the title. Gentilella came through with another strong day-two performance and ended the tournament with a 215 (71-71-72) which tied him for first place on the individual leaderboard. Hawn ended his golf career at ISU by carding a personal-best and low round of the tournament, 67, in the third round to end with a strong overall score of 216 (72-77-67). This was good for third place individually. Freiburg and Fahel finished tied for 14th place with a score of 226 (80-73-73) and (78-74-74), respectively. Edison’s final score was a 231 (76-75-80), which tied him for 29th place.

The tournament came down to the wire in one of the closest Missouri Valley Conference Championships in history. The Redbirds finished just three strokes behind Wichita State, coming down to the final three holes in an individual playoff between Gentilella and Wichita State’s Chandler Rusk.

“It came down to the wire in that final round for the lead to jump back and forth the way it did. A lot of their hard work shows, especially with Tyler playing in a playoff and Wils having the low round of the tournament. It was a great year for the Redbirds, and I hate to see it end, but these guys can hold their heads high. They did everything they needed to do to win this championship. Wichita State was just a little bit better.”

Freiburg, Hawn and Gentilella all received All-Valley honors for their regular season and tournament play.

There are two seniors on the Illinois State men’s golf team that will be moving on from the university after next week’s graduation ceremony.

Freiburg, originally from Quincy, Ill.,  and Hawn of Waterloo, Ill., will be leaving the No. 2 MVC team.

Hawn competed in 35 rounds during the 2012-13 season and had a season-stroke average of 74.6, the best of the ISU team.

Hawn was also awarded the 2013-14 Weibring Endowed Scholarship. Thanks to his ability to combine the athletic success of being the lowest per-round average on the squad with his leadership and academic skills, Hawn was chosen by Kralis as the 18th scholarship recipient.

“Wils has made great strides as a player and leader since he stepped foot on campus because of his tremendous work ethic, discipline and desire to make an impact,” Kralis said. “He has established himself as an ‘MVP’ in our program and one of the best golfers in the Missouri Valley Conference, and it is exciting knowing he still has a full season remaining. With his dedication and competitiveness, I expect this year to be his best in the classroom and on the course, and I am confident he will again show why he is so deserving of this award.”

Freiburg competed in 29 rounds during the 2012-13 season and completed the season with an average-round score of 76.2.

In March, Freiburg was named MVC Golfer of the Week as announced by the league office. The announcement marked the second time Freiburg had received the award and the fourth-consecutive week that a Redbird was named.

“Parker has continued to develop as a player, and it is great to see his effort and commitment rewarded,” Kralis said. “He has the physical and emotional set to compete with the best each week, and this provides affirmation of that and more confidence going forward.”

In July of 2013, Freiburg was awarded the L. Durwood Boone Endowed Scholarship  by Kralis. This scholarship is traditionally given to the most-improved men’s golfer.

Despite its losses, the ISU men’s golf team looks forward to another successful season.

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