Wright State golf: Reloading Raiders hope to build on strong tradition

FAIRBORN — The Wright State golf team flattened the competition in coach Conner Lash’s first season in 2021-22, winning nine of 11 regular-season events and then soaring to a 10-shot victory in the Horizon League tourney.

Though Lash beefed up the schedule after that recording-setting year, the Raiders still played at a high standard last season. They picked up three wins and were second four times, including a runner-up showing in the league.

But they’ve sputtered so far this fall while trying to replace a few stalwarts. Through four outings, they’ve finished no better than fifth.

If they want to reach the top of the league again, they’ll have to start converting more bogeys into pars and pars into birdies.

“It’s been a common theme this year. We have one bad round (out of three) that puts us behind the 8-ball. We’re in a territory we haven’t been in the last couple years,” he said.

Tyler Goecke, the 2023 league champ, transferred to Illinois for his fifth year of eligibility. And the Raiders also lost a pair of multi-year starters to graduation in Davis Root and Cole Corder.

But Lash is undeterred.

“The talent is there. We just have to clean it up,” he said.

“I still think we can be in a good spot at the end of the year (for the HL tourney in April). That’s really what we’re shooting for.”

Part of Lash’s confidence stems from having the league’s best player in Mikkel Mathiesen, who’s in his fifth year of eligibility.

He won the HL tourney in 2022 with a record three-round score of 203.

He’s captured six individual titles in his career and is a three-time first-team all-conference pick.

But while he seems to have the potential to follow in the path of former Raiders Frank Lickliter and Ryan Wenzler — Lickliter won two PGA Tour events and climbed as high as 41st in the world rankings, and Wenzler played in the PGA’s Barbasol Championship as a Monday qualifier in 2018 — Mathiesen has slumped a bit this year.

He finished second at the season-opening Iowa Fall Classic but has been no better than 10th since then.

“He’s hitting the ball really well right now. In the past two or three tournaments, he’s been hitting it maybe the best he ever has. He just can’t buy a putt. That’s how golf goes sometimes,” Lash said.

The Raiders need to lean on him while figuring out a starting five. And the strain may be getting to the Denmark native.

“This year, my test to him was, alright, in years past, we’ve always had a pretty steady four to five guys. He could just go play his game. This year, I said, ‘In order for us to be really good, you might have to go out and shoot a round in the mid-60s,” Lash said.

“I think he knows that. He might be feeling a little pressure. But I think that’s good for him to get ready to play at the next level. Out there, you have to take it deep every round.”

The Raiders have two firsts and two seconds in the last four league tourneys.

They were sixth in the 17-team Virtues Intercollegiate on Nashport, Ohio, last week, beating the other five HL teams in the field.

Senior Andrew Flynn tied for 19th in the league tourney last year. And Shane Ochs, a sophomore from Carroll, finished as the runner-up in the Wright State Invitational, losing a five-hole playoff to Mathiesen.

Sophomores Ian Asch and Adam Horn and freshman Kye Fisher also are fighting for starting spots.

The Raiders wrap up the fall season Oct. 16-17 at the Dayton Flyer Invitational at NCR South.

“In the past, we’ve had some clear-cut guys. This year, it’s up for anybody to grab,” Lash said.

“That’s where we are right now: Let’s see what you’ve got, and let’s see who takes it.”

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