Wright State golfers finish second in HL tourney despite solid play

Wright State coach Brian Arlinghaus and Bryce Haney talk during a tournament. CONTRIBUTED
Wright State coach Brian Arlinghaus and Bryce Haney talk during a tournament. CONTRIBUTED

Wright State golf coach Brian Arlinghaus had a positive vibe going into the final round of the Horizon League tournament Tuesday — despite trailing by five shots.

The Raiders were in a similar position the last time the event was held, facing a four-shot deficit in 2019. But they put together a dominant display to emerge with an eight-stroke victory and their first title in 15 years.

“It definitely was not insurmountable,” he said. “I looked into my crystal ball, and I told my wife and Conner (Lash), my assistant coach, ‘My guy feeling says by the time we walk off No. 4 green, we will have closed the gap.’”

The Raiders did manage to whittle the gap, cutting it to one. But first-place Oakland built a comfy lead again at the driveable, par-4 seventh — carding three birdies and an eagle — and strolled to its first conference crown.

Led by medalist Thomas Giroux, who was 2-under-par over three rounds, the Grizzlies finished with a 6-over 870 total for a seven-stroke victory.

That’s the best winning score since Cleveland State shot 858 in 2006.

The Raiders turned in a tidy 877 over three rounds at Purdue’s Kampen G.C. — 11 shots better than their winning score in ’19 — and they put three players in the top five and four in the top 10, which normally is a surefire path to success.

“If you’d have told me Saturday we’d have four in the top 10, I would have taken it and felt pretty good about our chances,” Arlinghaus said by phone afterward.

The Raiders’ final tally was better than the winning score in each of the last 10 years.

“I’ll probably wake up about 2 in the morning, roll over and think about that,” Arlinghaus said. “That’s going to hurt.”

The Raiders, who were 29 shots better than third-place Cleveland State, had their best team total since posting an 874 while winning in 2003.

Mikkel Mathiesen finished 1-over to tie for third, while Austin Schoonmaker and Bryce Haney each shot 4-over for a tie for fifth to earn all-tourney honors.

Haney, Wayne High School product, also made the all-tourney team with a second-place finish in 2019.

Because of the pandemic, the event was moved from the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., to the Pete Dye-designed layout in West Lafayette, Ind..

And while the yardage was virtually the same (6,874 yards this year, 111 longer than the HL’s typical home), the Grizzlies found it more to their liking.

“The golf course fit their style of play much better,” Arlinghaus said. “Mission Inn is very demanding off the tee. You have to be super accurate. You had to be accurate here as well, but you could miss fairways here and still have a shot to the green and not have to punch out.

“They have five guys who can bomb the ball, and they took full advantage, especially when it was downwind, of having firm fairways.”

The Raiders were unanimous preseason favorites in a vote of the coaches. And they went into the tourney on a roll with two firsts, a second and a third in their last four events.

The Grizzlies, picked second in the poll, had played just three times in 2021, placing 11th, fifth and eighth, and hadn’t officially teed it up since March 23.

But it didn’t matter.

They earned an automatic spot in the NCAA tourney and will find out their destination on May 5 on the Golf Channel.

“I think we finished head-to-head 65-13-2 this year (against all opponents),” Arlinghaus said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really bummed. To have that record and to have nothing to show for it, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”

But the Raiders are built for long-term success. Mathiesen, Haney and Tyler Goecke, who finished tied for 10th, will be joined next season by Cole Corder and Davis Root, who were stalwarts for the 2019 champs.

“We’ll get together in August and, hopefully, keep the momentum going,” Arlinghaus said. “We’ve got a really good group of guys coming back.”

In Other News