A tropical storm blowing out of the South was not the problem this week for collegiate golfers in the state of Arkansas. It was a 40 mph wind that came through Tuesday morning.
The Lumberjack Men’s golf team traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, this weekend to battle with some of the best collegiate teams in the nation. The tournament field consisted of 7 out of the 12 teams ranked in the top 50 in the nation.
Arizona, North Texas, New Mexico, Baylor, Texas A&M and a handful of other teams all made their way to Little Rock to try and win The First Tee Collegiate Invitational.
The tournament consisted of three days of golf, March 25-27, with each competitor playing 18 holes a day.
With round one kicking off on Sunday, March 25, the Lumberjacks started off of hole number 10 around 12:30 p.m. With the weather being absolutely perfect for scoring conditions, freshman Blake Pugh, Southlake, and junior Jeff Hageman, Southlake, got off to a red hot start ;each being two under par in the early going of the tournament. As the round continued and the sun starting to drop, the Lumberjacks started fading towards the back of the pack.
At the end of the day the Lumberjacks fired a 297, 9 over par first round with senior Michael Smith, Cedar Park, leading the way with a one over par 73. Hageman was not far off of Smith’s pace with a 2 over 74. Freshman Blake Pugh and junior Mitchell McLeroy, Mansfield, both carded 75’s. After round one the Lumberjacks were 23 shots off the lead to The University of New Mexico after they fired a solid round of 274.
“We didn’t get any rounds under par today and that’s what really hurt us here in the first round. These teams know how to get it done when conditions are like this and my number one and two man didn’t perform how they wanted to today,” Head coach Trey Schroeder said.
“We have to go out there tomorrow and see if we can cut 23 shots in half,” Schroeder said.
Being 23 shots down, the Lumberjacks teed it up in round two with red numbers
being only thing on their mind.
With weather conditions being absolutely perfect once again, junior Mitchell McLeroy got off to a red hot start birding two of his first six holes. Knowing that his team mates were struggling, McLeroy turned it up on the back nine carding two more birdies to get him to four under for the day with four holes to play until a double bogey stopped him dead in his tracks. McLeroy finished the round with three consecutive pars and posted SFA’s first under par score of the tournament.
Senior Michael Smith started the day off rough but fought back hard to knock three strokes off of his score on the back nine to shoot 75.
“I just didn’t get anything going in the beginning of the round and I knew the team needed me so I found something on the back nine and it seemed to work,” Michael Smith said.
The Lumberjacks ended up posting a 296, shaving one stroke off their day one performance. Once again it wasn’t enough to cut the lead down of the Lobos, who shot a 286 for the day.
With round two coming to an end, the players and coaches knew the worse was yet to come. With weather reports indicating that a cold front was coming through Little Rock Monday night. With Tuesday bringing 40 mph winds to the tournament.
The tournament was greeted with mother nature and her force on Tuesday morning. With the Lumberjacks being the test dummies, they were the first out onto the course with the hurricane winds.
With the Lumberjacks playing steady golf they quickly started climbing up the leader board. Each player of the team made the turn after nine holes at 3 over par or better with the rest of the field going way up in scores.
With head coach Trey Schroeder informing his players that they were moving up, the team started turning up the heat. Out smarting and out playing everyone else, the Lumberjacks started making birdies on the very difficult golf course.
Junior Jeff Hageman recorded five birdies on the back nine en route to a three under par 69, the lowest score of the day for the entire field.
“I really just stayed very calm out there all day and didn’t press and that‘s when putts started falling in. It was actually pretty easy,” junior, Jeff Hageman said after the round.
McLeroy and Smith followed in Hageman’s footsteps recording birdies on the back nine before running into problems on the final three holes.
Smith ended up with a 74 while McLeroy stumbled to a 77 in the final round. The Lumberjacks ended up firing a 302 being the third lowest team round of the day.
Hageman’s stellar play took him from a tie in 57th place to a tie for 12th in the tournament.
Smith and McLeroy finished in a tie for 31st place with 6 over totals for three days while freshman Blake Pugh ended up in 72nd place.
The Lumberjacks will travel to Victoria, Texas next week to play in the Jim West Collegiate hosted by Texas State. The Jim West collegiate tournament will be live on Golfstat for all fans and SFA alumni to watch.
With the spring semester coming to a close, the Lumberjacks are faced with two more tournaments until they have to battle in McKinney, TX, for the Southland Conference Championship.
“All of these tournaments this year is just a preparation to see where we are at and to see what we need to work on before the conference tournament,” Schroeder said.
The Southland Conference tournament will begin on April 23 and will consist of 18 holes a day over the span of three days. The winning team of the tournament will automatically advance to the regional tournament that will be played during May 16 through the 18th. The Lumberjacks have not advanced to regionals since 1998 when head coach Trey Schroeder was on the winning team himself.