Wright State has lofty goals going into NCAA golf regionals

Wright State's Bryce Haney surveys a putt during the Wright State Invitational last month at Heatherwoode Golf Club in Springboro. Wright State Athletics photo

Combined ShapeCaption
Wright State's Bryce Haney surveys a putt during the Wright State Invitational last month at Heatherwoode Golf Club in Springboro. Wright State Athletics photo

FAIRBORN — Bryce Haney remembers the vibe in 2019 when Wright State was the Horizon League golf champion and teed it up in the NCAA regionals in Pullman, Wash.

The effort was there, the confidence wasn’t.

The Raiders saw schools like Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Florida and UCLA and knew they couldn’t keep up. If it were a country club event, they would have been in different flight.

Haney and Cole Corder — who are senior stalwarts this season — finished second and third in the HL tourney that year but were overmatched at the regionals. Haney had the best finish on the team with a tie for 57th, and Corder tied for 65th.

“I think in 2019, we went out there and just wanted to have fun,” Haney said. “This year, we’re really good. We were good in 2019, too. But we KNOW we’re good now, and we can compete and make it out of the regionals. It’s a different mindset and attitude.”

When the Raiders play May 16-18 at the Ohio State Scarlet Course, they won’t be cowering from the competition — not even against programs like Oklahoma State that continually churn out PGA Tour players.

The top five teams will advance to the national championships May 27-June 1 in Scottsdale, Ariz., and anything less than achieving that goal will be considered a disappointment.

“It’s a business trip. We’re not just happy to be there. It’s a lot more than that,” Haney said.

“We’ve got five guys who can go out on any given day on any course and set the course record. We’re just so good from top to bottom.”

Junior Tyler Goecke has a 70.47 average, while junior Mikkel Mathiesen is at 71.42. Both are ahead of Ryan Wenzler’s scoring record from 2016-17 of 71.73.

Goecke also is easily blowing away the school record for career average. He’s at 71.77 through 69 rounds.

Frank Lickliter holds the all-time mark of 74.16 over three years before turning pro in 1991. And Jesse Hutchins, who played from 1999 to 2003, is second at 74.17.

“We’ve got some guys at the top who are playing well, but over the span of a tournament, we’ve got five guys who are putting up good numbers,” first-year coach Conner Lash said. “To be honest, I don’t think there are a ton of teams in the country who have that.”

Haney has the eighth-best average in program history at 72.26, while Corder is 11th at 72.53.

Even their fifth starter, senior Davis Root, averages 73.41, which would make him the No. 1 player at most HL schools.

“When we go out to practice, Davis can beat Tyler. Mikkel can beat Bryce, and Bryce can beat Mikkel. That’s what helps push the team so much throughout the year to be the best they can be,” Lash said.

“If someone is leading a tournament, and we have a team meeting before the final round, the other four say, ‘You’d better play well because we’re coming for you.’ That’s a good mindset to have. You can’t coast into a win. You have to play your best golf.”

The Raiders have set several team records, including most tourney wins. They have nine in 12 events (along with one runner-up finish) in 2021-22, while the previous high in the Division-I era (since 1989) was three.

They’ve also had the lowest score to par in an event, finishing 22-under at the 13-team Ball State Invitational. The previous record was 14-under last season.

They won that tourney by 38 shots, one of many lopsided victories.

Their cumulative record this season is 155-9.

“We have a new coach this year in Conner, who everybody loves, and he gave everyone a fair shake,” Haney said. “The five guys who are in there earned their spots. And we had immediate success. Conner wasn’t going to split that five up. We clicked so well.

“All of us have confidence going into the regionals. It’s going to be so much fun.”

About the Author