After taking home its first Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) title in program history last season, the men’s golf team has struggled to extend its success into the 2021-2022 season — though its performances have started to turn around.
With the last month of fall competition creeping up, the team capped off September with a fourth place finish at the Zach Johnson Invitational — its best tournament placement of the season out of three so far.
The team placed 10th at the Hoosier Collegiate Invitational Sept. 6 and sixth Sept. 18 at the Earl Yestingsmeier Invite. In the latter tournament, the race to the top was close with the team being just five strokes from second place.
Even before the tournament, junior Timmy Crawford said he and his teammates were really close to being where they wanted to be.
“We are really close to playing exactly how we want to,” Crawford said. “It is just a matter of getting everybody on the same page on the same day.”
Crawford’s hunch was backed by hours of hard work. The team put in extra time at the driving range and on the course ahead of the Drake University-hosted invitational, with each golfer working on what they’d been struggling with so far this season.
Graduate golfer Devin Johnson said he has been using his range time to work on his short game.
“[The] first two tournaments have been frustrating, I haven’t been hitting the ball as well,” Johnson said. “I was just grinding it out and saving good scores for the most part, but it’s been really frustrating.”
However, Johnson’s extra practice seems to have paid off. He led the team at the Iowa-based invitational, placing 11th with a one-over-par 214 (71-67-76), just a few strokes above his 72.2 season average.
Head coach Erik Hoops, a former Loyola golf captain himself, said he had been working with members of the team on the mental aspect of the game ahead of the Sept. 28 tournament.
“What I work on with them is game planning and strategy around the golf course,” Hoops said. “The guys are every bit as talented as anyone else that we are going to see, now we just have to see where we can pick up shots where other teams can’t quite do the same.”
Hoops said the fourth-place finish — a drop from the team’s first day second-place finish — is a testament to what the team can do on the green.
“I obviously wish we could have had a little better finish today, but it’s hard to be too upset with a top-five finish,” Hoops said in a Loyola Athletics press release Sept. 28. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t quite get any momentum today, so we’re headed home without any hardware, but this week really showed the potential of our team.”
The Loyola men’s golf team will play at the Bubba Barnett Intercollegiate tournament Oct. 11 and Oct. 12 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Live scores can be viewed on the Loyola Athletics website during and after the tournament.