The Badger men’s golf team is one of the most promising squads on campus. While they are anchored by junior standouts Sam Anderson and Griffin Barela, Head Coach Michael Burcin has welcomed two immediate impact players in freshmen Sebastian Iqbal and Coalter Smith.

The beginning of the season was slow for the young Badger team as they struggled to put together a complete tournament of solid team scores. The group placed 10th out of 16, ninth out of 13, and 12th out of 12 teams in three of the first tournaments in the fall season. Though this initial start to the season was mediocre at best, there existed positives to draw on from each tournament.

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The first tournament of the season was hosted by the Badgers at their home course, University Ridge. Anderson busted out of the gates and heated the Badgers during the duration of the tournament.

Anderson proved to be a leader of the team as he utilized his experience at University Ridge to his advantage, finishing all by himself in ninth place. The youthful and promising duo of Iqbal and Smith did not fail to impress as well. They both showed their potential final round scores of three under par.

Iqbal has a strong track record of success dating back to high school. The freshman from San Jose, California finished with the low score in all 12 matches of his senior season and won the league final by a landslide of seven shots. Smith, like Iqbal, has accolades of his own.

The Grosse Pointe Farms native was named Michigan’s 2019 Mr. Golf, a prestigious award recognized by the Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Association. Smith finished top three in the Michigan state championships in his sophomore, junior and senior high school seasons, adding a regional tournament win his senior year.

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One of Wisconsin’s following competitions, the Marquette Invitational, found the team in last place. The tournament provided rough conditions that stymied the Badgers, who were competing at the prestigious Erin Hills golf course.

To add to the hardship of defeat, Big Ten rivals Northwestern and Purdue finished the Marquette Invitational in first and second place, respectively. It is safe to say this performance lit a fire under the young and talented Badger team.

Burcin spoke to UW Athletics about the results of the Marquette Invitational.

“We had a lot of discussions after Erin Hills, and I could tell right away they were ready to move on,” Burcin said.

The Badger’s most successful test to date occurred in Cincinnati at the Musketeer Invitational. Wisconsin recorded season lows in 18, 36 and 54 hole scoring totals, making it safe to say the trip down to Cincinnati was a successful one. The team fired a first round score of three-under par and continued the steady play to the finish, winning the tournament by four strokes — but it only got better from there.

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Anderson closed the final round with a three-under par 68 placing him in second place, a career best finish by seven spots. Lugging just behind Anderson was Smith, who also set career lows for 18, 36 and 54 hole scores and recorded a career best fifth-place finish. It was about time this Badger squad, who is loaded with talent, burst onto the scene — exciting things are sure to come in the future. Shoutout to senior Pete Kuhl as well, who placed in an impressive tie for eighth place competing as an individual.

The Badger golf team should be on all Badger fans’ radars for years to come. Freshmen Iqbal and Smith have proven their skills in just the first few tournaments of the year and should be able to continue to improve and gain momentum as the season heats up.

Anderson is currently in the process of playing the best golf of his career. I think it’s fair to expect his recent dominance to continue as his confidence increases along with his level of play.

If these three players can grow on their success, and if Barela can get back to his sophomore season form, expect the Badger men’s golf team to make some waves in the Big Ten for the first time in years.