The beginning of the second academic semester brings a slew of new opportunities for the Wisconsin men’s golf team. An impressive lineup of tournaments throughout multiple Southern states awaits the Badgers who, in a few respects, are lagging behind last year’s performance.
In tournaments during the 2018 and 2019 fall seasons, the Badgers have underperformed their finishes by a slight margin if you consider the total number of teams they beat. In the Badger Invitational, the Badgers’ home event that kicks off their fall season, they placed 11th out of 16 teams in 2019. In 2018, they were one spot ahead as they finished 10th out of 12.
At the Marquette Intercollegiate, the Badgers fell from eighth place out of 11 teams to dead last from 2018 to 2019. The other tournaments the team competed in were absent from their 2018 schedule, making it more difficult to directly compare their performances in the three other events the Badgers fielded a full team.
Even with this being the case, the difference between this year’s and last year’s performances is quite clear. It took a career best from Sam Anderson, the team’s best scorer on average, to propel the Badgers to an 11th place finish. Anderson carded a six under par aggregate score over three days. In 2018, Jordan Hahn shot even par over three days, which was enough to carry the Badgers to a 10th place finish.
The team was successful in 2018 at the Badger Invitational not because their lead scorer at the time had a career weekend, but because they had more consistent scoring as a team. Both Griffin Barela and Brett Robinson finished within 10 strokes of Hahn. The Badgers lost Brett Robinson as he was a senior competing in his last season in 2018.
When Anderson secured his career best performance, there was not a single player on the Badger team who scored less than 10 strokes higher than Anderson’s. In this tournament, it was not the lack of a star that hampered the Badgers, but rather a lack of tight grouping around the top score. In other words, Anderson’s anomalous scoring propelled the Badgers to a higher position than they might normally expect to achieve.
At the Marquette Intercollegiate, the Badgers’ team score was once again highly stratified. Anderson and freshman Sebastian Iqbal carded scores of two over par and five over par for the tournament, respectively. The next best was Coalter Smith with a tournament aggregate score of 13 over par. Nick Robinson also shot 13 over par for the tournament.
Anderson finished the tournament in 19th place individually and Iqbal also carded an impressive performance. Their aggregate score over par, if they were to constitute the entirety of the Badger team, would be good enough to finish in a respectable sixth place for the tournament.
But it takes more than two guys to build a team. And the Badgers did not finish sixth, they finished last. It stands to reason a large part of the Badgers’ continued struggle in tournament play is due to a lack in depth.
Their top talent, when competing at the top of their game, is good enough to stand toe to toe with the best in the game. In order for the team to stand toe to toe with the best, they will have to procure greater depth either from receiving more recruits in the same vein as Iqbal and Smith, or develop existing talent.
The Badgers may actually have some quality time over the upcoming spring season and the following year to develop a very solid team. The top two scorers for the team, Anderson and Barela, are both juniors. Iqbal and Smith just completed their first fall season ever for the Badgers.
Current sophomore Cameron Frazier had a solid showing at the Marquette Intercollegiate as an individual, carding an eight over par score that was good for third best on the team. He will continue to build on his experience as a Badger as the team moves forward to the spring season.
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The first tournament in the Badgers’ spring schedule is the Big Ten Match Play. Last year, they had a very strong relative showing, capturing a sixth place finish out of 14 total teams. This finish was a stark contrast to their last place finish in the Big Ten Championships at the end of the 2019 spring season.
Even if this year’s team is not able to replicate the sixth place finish of last year, they have the chance to make a statement as a unit. If they are able to do so, it will be an indication the Badgers are building on fresh talent and senior leadership in order to move in the right direction.