By: Mason Nesbitt, Sports Information Director
The coronavirus has created at least one unexpected benefit for The Master’s University men’s golf team.
Under normal circumstances, the Mustangs would travel together to a tournament and then disperse into pairings with players from other teams — not to see each other again until round’s end.
This season, COVID-19 precautions have allowed Master’s to play each of its first four competitions as a unit, taking each shot and putt with teammates looking on.
This week in Oklahoma City was another example of how that added camaraderie has helped the Mustangs stay patient, focused and upbeat throughout what can be long, taxing days.
Master’s finished just seven strokes out of first place at Lincoln Park Golf Club on Tuesday, the second day of the Sydney Cox Invitational.
The Mustangs finished fourth place in a tight grouping of high-level teams. Only eight strokes separated the top eight squads in the two-round event.
Josh Kehl finished a team-best eighth place at 3-under, and he attributed at least some of the Mustangs’ success to playing as a group.
“It helps a lot,” said the senior. “We can feed off each other’s energy and keep our momentum going forward.”
TMU’s Tyler Smith finished tied for 18th, shooting a 1-over for the tournament. He also liked having his teammates around for the entire tournament.
“It makes a total difference because we see every shot our teammates hit, good or bad, and that allows us to encourage each other and give each other advice,” said the graduate student. “It doesn’t feel like a tournament atmosphere. It feels more relaxing because you’re with your fiends and you’re all battling together.”
Kehl seemed to be most relaxed on the greens, where his putts were consistently on-point — especially on Monday when he shot a 67.
“Josh putted lights out this week,” Smith said. “He made a lot of big putts to save par down the stretch when it mattered.”
All five of TMU’s players finished within six strokes of each other, at least in part, because of strong play on shorter holes.
Master’s led all participating teams on Par 3’s, where it finished 3-over. Kehl was 2-under on those holes and Shea Murphy was 1-under, both among the event’s leaders.
Murphy — who tied for 18th place overall — was second in the field when it came to birdies. He had 11. And junior Jack Dudeck (t-27th) carded one of only five eagles at the tournament.
Kehl and Eric Martin (t-25) were each near the top of the leaderboard in terms of pars, with 25 each.
Smith believes TMU’s best asset this week was remaining patient.
“We knew the birdie opportunities were going to be out there and everyone had positive attitudes when things didn’t go well,” he said. “No one let a bad shot or bad break get to them this week. We all fought until the very end, and I’m proud of my guys for showing that resilience.”
The Mustang women’s golf team had a week off and will next compete on Oct. 26 at the Cal Pac-GSAC Fall Invitational in Moorpark. TMU’s men will also compete in that tournament.