When Wright State stroked its final putt at the NCAA golf regional in Pullman, Wash., on Wednesday, the players weren’t dwelling on shots that got away or what they could’ve done to finish higher in the 14-team field.
They were already thinking about next year.
“Bryce Haney said it on the way back to the hotel,” coach Brian Arlinghaus said. “We shut the door of the van, and he goes, ‘We’re going to be really good next year.’ That was it. Next chapter.
“And we could be good. There’s no guarantees, obviously, but we have some depth.”
The Raiders — who had just one senior in the lineup this season — played in the NCAAs as Horizon League champs for the first time in 15 years. And though they couldn’t keep pace with the top teams, they improved each day in the 54-hole event with four-man scores of 302, 297 and 290 at par-70 Palouse Ridge, finishing 13th.
First-place Texas A&M and four other teams advanced to the NCAA championships May 24-29 in Fayetteville, Ark., along with five qualifiers from the other five regionals.
“I thought about this a lot, and if I had to do it over again, I’d try to find a way to get here two days earlier and acclimate to the time change. The way we ended round one, we just hit a physical and mental wall,” Arlinghaus said.
They arrived Saturday, played a practice round Sunday and then competed Monday.
They were 22 over par in the first round, going 19 over on their last five holes.
“There’s nothing like being three hours behind on your body. It’s dinner time, and you’re trying to truck through and finish your afternoon round,” Arlinghaus said.
Haney was team medalist at 217 and had the low score of 71 in the final round. Austin Schoonmaker was next at 221, followed by Cole Corder at 228 and Mitch Lehigh at 229.
“It was awesome,” Lehigh, the lone senior, said of the experience. “The level of competition we got to see every day — and to know what we have to do to get back here every year and make this a habit — it was a huge learning experience for us as players and coach ‘Haus’ as well.”
Lehigh, who plans to be a student coach next year, showed he could match up with the best in the country, at least for nine holes.
After making the turn at 8-over-par 43 Wednesday, he finished his career with a back-nine 30, including an eagle on his final hole.
“Giant kudos to Mitch,” Arlinghaus said. “His sophomore year, that couldn’t have happened. Even earlier this year, that couldn’t have happened. He’d fall off the deep end after a rough front nine.
“He was just as cool and as calm as I’ve ever seen him.”
He played the last five holes in 5-under. And he was joined by Arlinghaus for the walk up the par-5 18th.
After hitting his drive down the middle, Lehigh smoked a 260-yard 3-wood up a slope to 20 feet and finished it off in style.
Asked about his surge, he said: “I really didn’t want to end my career in the 80s. I turned it up a notch and somehow shot 30. I started hitting it really well on the back, and everything was flying right at the flag. All the putts were going in. It was crazy.”
But while Lehigh and his mates may have been helped by getting rid of the jet lag, they finished 82 shots out of first and left in awe of the superior skill.
“I told the guys in our meeting (Tuesday), ‘We’re pretty good. But when you look at what won the thing, the talent level at this event is crazy. It’s like a mini-tour event, if not better.
“When you watch it for 54 holes, holy cow, these guys are really, really good.”
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