Wright State golf: Raiders’ confidence strengthened after NCAA showing

Wright State's golf team finished a program-best ninth Wednesday in the NCAA Columbus Regional at Ohio State's Scarlet Course. Pictured from left, coach Conner Lash, Davis Root, Tyler Goecke, Bryce Haney, Mikkel Mathiesen and Cole Corder. Matthew Barnes, Wright State Athletics photo

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Wright State's golf team finished a program-best ninth Wednesday in the NCAA Columbus Regional at Ohio State's Scarlet Course. Pictured from left, coach Conner Lash, Davis Root, Tyler Goecke, Bryce Haney, Mikkel Mathiesen and Cole Corder. Matthew Barnes, Wright State Athletics photo

FAIRBORN — Wright State’s golfers knew after being seeded 12th in the 13-team NCAA regionals last week at Ohio State that outsiders didn’t think they were on equal footing with the best teams in the nation.

The Raiders all thought they were, though, and their play over three rounds at the Scarlet Course only reinforced that belief.

While Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech clearly were a cut above, the next seven squads were separated by just 12 strokes.

Ohio State finished with a four-over-par 856, Arkansas shot 859, and East Tennessee State carded an 862 to claim the last qualifying spot for the NCAA championships in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Raiders tied for ninth with Kentucky, ahead of Northwestern and three others, shooting an 868.

Clemson and San Francisco tied for sixth at 866, while Duke was seventh at 867.

“We’re all obviously bummed we didn’t move on. Our goal was to make it there,” first-year coach Conner Lash said of the nationals. “But we had a lot of success this year. I’m proud of the guys. We’re looking forward to next year already.”

Five players compete every round, and four scores count, meaning the difference between Wright State and East Tennessee State was just a couple of three-putts or bad bounces each day.

“We played some good golf. At the end of the day, six strokes over three rounds is nothing,” Lash said. “But in a championship (tourney), every stroke matters. It was a good lesson for us. We’re going to take the positives from it. And the guys are even hungrier because of it.”

Junior Tyler Goecke and senior Davis Root shot even-par 213, seven behind medalist Eugenio Lopez-Chacarro of Oklahoma State, to tie for 12th.

Goecke displayed his usual steadiness with scores of 73-70-70 while setting the single-season program record with an average of 70.47.

Root had a 68 in the second round. They were only five 68s all tourney, and the best score was a 67 by Georgia Tech’s Ross Steelman, the runner-up.

Root’s performance was all the more remarkable considering he’s the Raiders’ No. 5 player.

“Davis has put in a lot of work not only this year, but in previous years. I was happy to see it pay off,” Lash said. “It’s only going to help him take his game to the next level.”

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Horizon League champ Mikkel Mathiesen, who also broke Ryan Wenzler’s school record this season with a 71.42 average, was the only Raider never to have played in high school at the Scarlet Course, a 7,400-yard brute, and he couldn’t get comfortable.

The junior from Doha, Qatar, shot 76-74-75 to finish in a tie for 63rd.

“They set the course up where if you’re not on (your game), you’re going to get penalized. And he didn’t play up to his standards,” Lash said. “But talking to him, he said, ‘I really didn’t play that bad. I just had a couple bad holes and a couple bad swings here and there and couldn’t get anything going.’ That’s golf sometimes. That’s what’s so hard about making it out of regionals. You all have to play your best golf at that specific time.”

The Raiders still posted their highest finish in six regional trips and won a program-record nine tournaments in 13 tries.

They’ll have to replace Wayne graduate Bryce Haney, who had four straight top-15 showings in the Horizon League tourney, but Goecke, Mathiesen, Root (who averaged 73.42) and Cole Corder (72.53) are all expected to return.

Lash said he’s already put together a more challenging schedule, including an event in Houston that will include some national powers.

“We’ll have four back who are going to keep getting better,” he said, “and I’ll get somebody else — whether it’s a freshman or someone on the bench this year — to step up and fill Bryce’s shoes. We can be pretty special again.”

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