Men’s golf strives in warm Florida and Georgia temperatures over spring break

Jacob VanZuiden, Courier Staff

While most students traveled home last week for spring break, the Leatherneck men’s golf team stayed at work. The team departed to warmer pastures on the shores of Jacksonville, Fla. for the Don Benbow Invitational before journeying north for a one-day event at Savannah State. Each match proved to be important, as the Purple and Gold saw the same continual growth they’ve seen since the launch of the spring season.

In each of their spring break events, the Leathernecks rolled out two different starting lineups. The purple lineup was comprised of: Parker Govern, Wyatt Spier, Jackson Wetherbee, Kyle Irlbacker and John Duggan III. In turn: Cameron Karney, Joe Burke, Graham Conrad, Nick Ceruzzi and Dennis Reedy rounded out the gold lineup for Western.

The Don Benbow Invitational was stacked with strong competition. Competing against the Leathernecks were: Alabama State, Butler University, Northwood University, University of Evansville, Eastern Illinois and Chicago State University in a hard-fought competition.

Both teams as a whole maintained sturdy play in the event. Starting with the purple lineup, Spier narrowly led his group with an impressive two-round tally of 149 (+5). Right behind him was the standout senior Wetherbee, who finished with a score of 152 (+8) after a 75-stroke afternoon on day two. The performances of Irlbacker, Duggan III and Karney may not have been flashy, but provided solid numbers to round out the back half of their lineup. Each of the three finished with a 154 (+10). Their combined contributions were good for an 807 total and fifth place in the event out of eight qualifying schools.

Things didn’t go as smoothly for the gold group. Their squad struggled to get things going early on, but one bright spot happened to be ever-consistent freshman Parker Govern. Govern led all Leathernecks in the event with a magnificent total of 148 (+4) after a team-low 74 on the event’s last day.

Interim head coach Lia Biehl Lukkarinen seemed to like what she saw at the invitational, but acknowledged that her team had a rough go-around close to the cup.

“We had consistent play and solid ball striking,” said Lukkarinen. “We struggled on the Bermuda greens.”

In short notice, Western packed up their gear and headed to the Crosswinds Golf Course in Savannah, Ga. for the Savannah State Spring Fling. For the Leathernecks, this would be their first trip to the venue. Along with Western’s purple and gold lineups, Savannah State, Butler University and Earlham College made up the rest of competition.

The purple squad once again fired on all cylinders, tying host Savannah State for first place in the match. Irlbacker was on top of his game, shooting one under par with a 71 and receiving a co-medalist honor. Also placing in the top-five, tying for fourth-place with a total of 73 (+1) was Wetherbee. Govern and Spier both paced the team with 77 (+5) each while Duggan III fell just behind at 80 (+8).

Both Burke and Karney gave their best efforts for the gold squad, but once again came up short with another last-place finish. The two ended the one-day event with scores of 76 (+4) and 77 (+5), respectively. Conrad (81), Ceruzzi (83) and Reedy (88) made up the latter-half of their group.

When Lukkarinen spoke after the Spring Fling, she was more than pleased by what her team accomplished.

“The team finished spring break strong,” said Lukkarinen. “Great round on an unseen course.”

With The Purple and Gold beginning to build momentum, the team will aim to keep things up next time out. On March 30, Western will stay in-state when they travel to Peoria, Ill. for the Bradley Intercollegiate.