Golf spring tournaments open in Ohio

Katie Bultman

The snow in Marquette may impede on outdoor practices for the NMU golf team, but the men have still used indoor space to practice for their first series of spring tournaments this week, beginning Thursday, April 3, at the Cedarville Invitational in Ohio.

The newest member of the team, head coach Kyle Wittenbach, is a graduate of Ferris State University, where he won an individual and team GLIAC conference championship in 2010, in addition to qualifying for the 2012 NCAA Division II National Golf Championship in Kentucky.

“Certain mornings we’ll be in the Vandament hitting balls into the net, and then we get the Dome some nights during the week,” Wittenbach said. “They’re working hard and they’re doing really good, so we’re excited. We’ve set some team goals, and they have their individual goals, and we’re finding a way to reach them.”

The Cedarville Invitational is the team’s first meet of the spring season. It will be their first chance to hit real golf balls since the fall.

Junior Ayrton Mantha said he wants to see them compete in the first tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

“Hitting limited-fly golf balls is a little different than hitting a real golf ball, especially because none of us have been hitting drivers or anything,” Mantha said. “That will be the biggest challenge, that and putting, because we really can’t work on that here. That’ll be one of the first things that we get working on when we get down there.”

The men left early Tuesday morning, April 1. They were allowed Wednesday for practice time on the course before the tournament began Thursday, April 3.

Senior Jared Reid said he expects the team to do well, despite not having hit a real golf ball since October.

“It’s good that we’re going to have this first tournament as a warm-up,” Reid said. “For team expectations, we’re hoping to compete and possibly win this first meet. We’re kind of coming in at a disadvantage, because I know that the host of the meet has already been playing and everything, and we’re coming from snowbanks. We’re hoping to compete and hopefully win this.”

Following the meet in Dayton, the men travel to Batavia, Ohio for the NCAA Regional II – Elks Run. There, the men will face other conference teams.

Mantha said there are a few teams that will be really good at the second tournament, which begins Saturday, April 5 and ends Sunday, April 6.

“Grand Valley is always good, Wayne State is always good, Malone is really good,” Mantha said. “I could keep going on and on about them, there are a few of them that are really good.”

Under the new leadership of Wittenbach, the team has been taking a different approach to conditioning in practice.

“Since I’ve gotten here, they’ve definitely increased their workload,” Wittenbach said. “It’s a lot of morning conditioning, which people think is interesting and funny that golfers work out, but we’re in there three or four days a week in the mornings in the PEIF or Dome doing cardio, core workouts and weightlifting.”

Wittenbach said the team needs to focus on the physical aspect of the game in order to improve their mental game.

“You don’t have to be fit to be a golfer, but at a high level, it’s very mentally challenging and when you’re tired, you don’t make as responsible decisions or as well thought out decisions,” Wittenbach said. “A strong body makes a strong mind, there’s the short answer.”

With the two tournaments, the golfers have the opportunity to finally get some practice with their outdoor golf game. Reid said the team is excited to be in a place without all of the snow.

“We’re excited to get back out there; we’re excited with the new coach,” Reid said. “We’ve got a different travel squad this year compared to what we had in the fall, so we’ve got some different guys that will be able to add, hopefully, some good things. We’ve got a couple of guys I know that are going to be really nervous heading out there, but we’re excited and ready to get away from this harsh winter.”