Area products Goecke, Greaser headed to NCAA golf championships

Credit: USGA Museum

Credit: USGA Museum

Tyler Goecke saw it coming. A somewhat erratic season for him hit a low point with a subpar performance at the worst possible time.

The dip came the week before the Big Ten championships, and the fifth-year golfer from Xenia was left off the travel squad for the conference tourney at Scioto Country Club.

Few athletes, though, have ever taken a benching so well.

“Coach (Mike Small) came to me and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to a course where it’s a high-pressure environment. There are guys who are maybe more deserving of it,” said Goecke, who finished 53rd at Illinois’ tuneup event at Olympia Fields with rounds of 82-78-74.

“I agreed with him. ... I’ve had some ups and downs — anyone can see that by looking at the results. I took that week as a chance to get my game back in shape.”

Goecke, a Wright State standout for four years who was a two-time Horizon League Golfer of the Year, went to work on the range while the Illini were in Columbus. They finished second to Northwestern to end a streak of eight straight Big Ten crowns.

They were still picked for the NCAA tournament for the 16th consecutive year. The team held a three-round competition for the five starting spots, and Goecke earned his way to the Stanford Regional by finishing first.

Playing on a par-70 course with tight fairways, the player known for his precision from tee to green, carved it up.

The Carroll grad shot 65-67-68 (10-under 200 total) for the lowest 54-hole score of his career, finishing in a tie for fifth to spark the Illini to an eight-stroke victory.

It’s their sixth regional title since 2013, and they’ll play in the 30-team NCAA championships Friday through Wednesday at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.

“In the regionals, if you eliminate mistakes, you never have a bad round,” said Goecke, who only had five bogeys over three days. “I was very confident. I was rolling it well.

“What I’ve learned in the last eight or nine months is that every golfer has ups and downs, but for the good golfers, their downs are a lot shorter.”

Goecke isn’t the only local product teeing it up at the nationals.

Credit: Julio Cortez

Credit: Julio Cortez

North Carolina All-American Austin Greaser, a fifth-year player from Vandalia Butler, won the individual title at the Chapel Hill Regional, draining a 30-foot birdie putt on the last hole for his second career regional win.

He shot 66-65-66 for 13-under 197, which tied PGA Tour player Ben Griffin for the best tourney score in program history.

He’s the first Tar Heel to post three scores of 66 or better in an event.

It’s also the second time he’s won a college tourney on his final swing. He holed out from the fairway to win the Fighting Illini Invitational in 2021.

Both programs have legitimate national title hopes. The top eight schools after medal play advance to the match-play portion of the event.

“We’ve had some flashes of great golf this year, and I think we’re right in the middle of one again,” Goecke said.

“Winning regionals is great. Making it to nationals is great. But the standard at Illinois is to compete for national championships. That’s going to be the goal.”

About the Author