Earlier this week, the Binghamton golf team wrapped up a successful fall season with a fourth-place finish at the F&M Bank APSU Intercollegiate hosted by Austin Peay. Three of the five Bearcat players scored under par, led by junior Ryan Rodriguez, whose score of five under was good enough to tie for third place.
“I thought they had a great tournament, without a doubt,” said BU head coach Bernie Herceg. “Coming down the stretch, we were right in the thick of things … I knew we were playing solid, especially when we had two or three guys being under par with holes to play.”
The invitational marked the first time the Bearcats took to the course following their first-place finish at home on Oct. 1, and the team seemed to pick up right where it left off two weeks ago. Binghamton’s total score over the two-round tournament was four below par, and the team combined for just seven holes of bogey or worse during the final round on Tuesday.
“It definitely carried over,” Herceg said. “The guys are just believing in themselves a little bit more. I’ve always seen in them what they’re capable of doing and being able to do it now — it’s just giving them more confidence.”
Once again, the Bearcats, with almost the same roster of players, made an improvement in their performance from the same invitational last year. In 2017, the team registered a ninth-place finish out of 11 teams and a score of plus-28 over two rounds (the invitational was three rounds back then). This year, Binghamton rode a 32-stroke swing from then to now to climb five spots up the leaderboard.
The invitational began somewhat chaotically for all teams participating, with a rain delay halting the start of play for a few hours. The Bearcats managed to weather the storm and several bogeys, clocking in an even score and sitting one shot off the lead at the end of the opening round.
Several teams, including BU, performed better on the second day than the first, but due to technical difficulties with live scoring, nobody knew exactly where each team stood as the round progressed, leading to a tight race down the stretch. When the dust settled, the Bearcats had earned their fourth-place finish, five shots behind the eventual champions, Belmont University.
Individually, Rodriguez was the only Bearcat to score in the red in both rounds on the 72-par course. The junior remained near the top of the leaderboard the whole way through, finishing alongside four other players with a score of five under in a tie for third. Senior Zak Ottman was the only other Bearcat to finish in the top 10.
“[Rodriguez’s] tournament this past week definitely carried over from the home tournament,” Herceg said. “Throughout the whole fall season, he’s just improving his scoring and his mindset when he’s competing, and definitely the last two tournaments show what he’s capable of doing.”
Overall, the Bearcats improved their standing in four of five tournaments this fall compared to last year. With the season now at a close, the team has a break of over four months before the spring season begins in March. The winter break always presents a bit of a challenge to the team, since the weather prevents them from practicing on an actual golf course. Herceg, though, is confident that his team will make good use of the recently renovated indoor facilities to stay sharp during the offseason.
“Right now, we have the facilities in the offseason,” Herceg said. “We have a great place to hit balls, we also have a simulator and then this past fall, we put in a chipping and putting room … because we have the resources they’re able to work on all parts of their game.”
The Bearcats continue play in March when the spring season gets underway.