A cold, wet start on day one shortened the UIndy Brickyard Invitational to just two 18-hole rounds, but the finish couldn’t have ended much better for the Grand Valley State University men’s golf team.
Under new coach Gary Bissell, GVSU shot 590 (+14) across the two days in a field of 13 schools – including six top-25 teams – earning a tie for fourth place with the No. 1 team in the NCAA Division II, reigning national champion Barry University.
“I think everybody believes we’re one of the better teams in the country,” said GVSU redshirt senior Jack Rider. “Whether or not we’re ranked is really not speaking of how good the team really is.”
Rider led the charge for the Lakers by closing out the tournament with his first individual collegiate victory. He won by three shots after his four-under-par 68 in the second round, giving him a four-under 140 overall.
Rider’s ability to set himself up with impressive drives off the tee made the difference on Tuesday. He finished the second round with six birdies and only two bogeys to secure the tournament victory.
GVSU’s finish as a team may be even more impressive considering the talent they went up against. The Lakers may not be ranked to start the fall season, but that means little to the new-look squad.
“There’s a bigger emphasis this year on just playing the shots in front of you, and that is the only thing you focus on the entire round,” Rider said.
Bissell, who became just the second coach of the GVSU men’s golf program in June, has placed an early emphasis on focus – and it seems that philosophy is quickly paying dividends.
“We just try not to worry about what other teams are doing,” said junior Tyler Polulak.
Polulak finished in a tie for 14th place (+3) in the field of 74. Meanwhile, freshman Domenic Mancinelli tied for 29th (+7), junior Nick Williams tied for 34th (+8) and junior Alex Nannetti tied for 65th (+17).
Bissell, while happy with the outcome, was less than pleased about his players’ wedge shots and a few shots that ended in the hazards. However, he said, those things can be corrected with time.
“I didn’t think we played our absolute best,” Bissell said. “I think guys looked nervous early. That’s natural. I think if you asked the other coaches they’d say the same thing.
“The more time we have the better.”
No. 22 University of Central Oklahoma won the team portion of the event with a six-stroke victory.