Men looking to regain fall success on road to nationals

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter
Junior Travis Shooks follows through a swing

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter Junior Travis Shooks follows through a swing

Brady Fredericksen

After a successful fall season, the Grand Valley State University men’s golf team will look to continue the good times as it rolls into its primary spring season.

After a third-place finish in the GLIAC Championships in October, GVSU head coac Don Underwood’s Lakers started the spring slow with a 12th-place finish to open the season at the Richard Rendleman Invitational in Salisbury, N.C.

Since the early-March tournament, the Lakers have started to find their swing in their tour of the southern U.S., finishing third at the Tusculum Invitational in Greenville, Tenn., and 4th at the E-Z Go Spring Classic in Butler, Ky.

“We haven’t been quite as good as what we’re looking for so far,” said Underwood, who’s in his 17th year as GVSU head coach. “It hasn’t been horrible – we’ve had some really good efforts, but we’re just not getting quite enough of them.”

With the golf season being divided into two parts – fall and spring – the team is finally settling into practicing in Allendale. As that continuity continues to return, so will their game, said junior Nick Gunthorpe.

“This is the first time we’ve gotten to get some practice in on the grass,” said Gunthorpe, who carded a 160 (79-81) at the E-Z Go Spring Classic. “Once we find our swing and figure out our short game, it should help us all going forward.”

Expectations of inconsistency are expected from the younger golfers, especially early in the season, but it has actually been the upperclassmen who have had trouble getting back into the flow.

“I think that some of our young guys have played well, and we need our upperclassman playing better,” Underwood said. “I’m confident they will, we just need to figure out what we can do to help them get it going this spring.”

The play of the freshmen Chris Cunningham, last week’s GLIAC Men’s Golf Athlete of the Week, and Alex Willnow have been a pleasant surprise this season. The duo has carried the team while the veterans round back into their game form and will look to continue that strong play going into the Great Lakes Region Invitational this weekend.

“There’s always more emphasis on the Regionals,” Gunthorpe said. “With the way the freshman are playing, the experience they have is going to help us score consistently.”

Underwood said getting more out of all of his golfers is the key moving forward, but he expects that the team’s extensive travel schedule will help them bond. The team only plays one tournament at home each season, the Arendsen in late September, so the constant travel has helped build a bond among the golfers.

“I think the bonding that goes on with traveling together is a plus,” Underwood said. “There’s value in the guys being around each other, but traveling is kind of the nature of the sport so they’re used to it.”

The team will look to find consistency at this weekend’s regional, the first step in a month-long journey to the NCAA Championships.

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