Jay Goble planned 54 holes of qualifying for Baylor’s first fall event. But when the Bears got on the road for the season-opening Schooner Fall Classic, it felt like qualifying had never really ended.
“They were trying to beat the players in their group so bad that they didn’t even remember we were playing in a golf tournament against other people,” Goble said.
In fact at the end of the final round, his players didn’t even know the team had won. They went 7 under as a team to finish 31 shots ahead of host Oklahoma at Belmar Golf Club in Norman, Oklahoma. That margin was greater than the number of shots between Oklahoma and the bottom of the leaderboard.
At the Schooner, each team played together in a group of five, an unusual format but one necessary because of COVID. Goble found himself tending flags and raking bunkers, stepping out of the way of his players – a la his mentor, longtime Duke coach Dan Brooks – so they could play.
“When you have a really solid team, all the preparation and all the work is done in Waco,” Goble said. “You’re just looking for feels to get you prepared for the tournament.”
In the past, Goble felt he had to recruit players other coaches didn’t know about, bring them to Waco and build up their games through the season to get to a point where Baylor could compete with the top programs in the country. Now, Goble feels like the foundation is set. Longevity helps.
Goble has now been at the Baylor helm for a decade. He returned Elodie Chapelet as a fifth-year senior plus two other redshirt juniors this year after last spring’s COVID cancellations. Four freshman arrived in Waco, too.
Goble can’t remember a year he had a lineup that was as deep, from the No. 1 player to the No. 9 player, as this year’s is. After last week’s team qualifier, only four shots separated the top player from the bottom one.
“Maybe we’re not the underdog team anymore and I’m OK with that,” he said. “I’m still going to try to get the same message across that this is a marathon, not a sprint. If we can get better form this point, then by the time we get to regionals and nationals and the Big 12 Championship, we’re going to be one of the best teams in the country.”
Undefeated and done
It was business as usual for the University of Alabama– Birmingham men at Greystone Golf Club this week. No UAB team since 1996 had won back-to-back tournament titles since this team did it in September, but head coach Mike Wilson felt he hardly needed to speak to it as his team entered UAB’s own Graeme McDowell Invitational on Sept. 29.
“We didn’t have much conversation, talking about winning again or anything like that,” Wilson said. “We were really just focused on trying to play the tournament the best we could. I think that being in that position the previous two tournaments made it more comfortable for us.”
Not surprisingly, UAB made up a three-shot deficit on Georgia Southern on the final day at Greystone, charging into program record books as the only team to win three straight titles. Their prize? A 6:30 a.m. wake-up call for a standing Thursday-morning COVID test.
The Blazers remain COVID negative, itself a statement of commitment.
“I told our guys yesterday after the round how proud I was of them for not only their golf but being committed to the plan and being able to execute it,” Wilson said.
Wilson has said all along that the most normal parts of this year happen on the golf course. Everything else is something of a twilight zone – like the fact that Wilson had to plan for the possibility that he would be running the Graeme McDowell Invitational from home.
Wilson also takes the weekly COVID test. Some teams hosting events this season have said that if they cannot compete because of positive COVID tests, they won’t host. Wilson was committed to running the event regardless. UAB’s women’s coach likely would have stepped in if needed, with Wilson manning whatever controls he could from his house.
It’s always a nerve-wracking day waiting for those results. That routine continues – likely through Thanksgiving break – despite UAB’s season now being over. The Blazers likely could find their way into a bonus event this fall, but in a climate where nothing seems guaranteed, Wilson is content with the season UAB had.
“I’m just really big on trying to do what we set out to do,” he said. He always thought that would be three events.
It will be a long offseason from now to mid-February, when UAB tees it up again, but as Wilson reasons, it was a pretty long break from last March to September.
UAB weathered it quite well.
Beat this hole-in-one back-drop
The University of Indianapolis hosted its annual Brickyard Invitational last week at Brickyard Crossing Golf Club in Speedway, Indiana, and this ace was one of the more memorable moments to come from it.
Findlay’s Parker Haynes made a scenic hole-in-one at the par-3 seventh, playing 176 yards, in the final round. Haynes had started his day with a 10 on the first hole, but battled back for an 80 that left him T-40 for the event.
To be a fly on the wall of a team van
What good is a season-opening victory if you don’t capitalize on it with a homemade music video?