By Ben Hercik
It has been over four months since the last time the Cleveland State University golf teams last hit the links. Both teams have been off after the Dayton Flyer Invitational on Oct. 15, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been practicing on their games.
A new simulator was made for the players to be able to practice during the cold, winter months in Cleveland. Women’s head coach Taylor Riggs is very happy with the addition of the simulator to allow the golfers to get more practice under their belts.
“We added the simulator in November, and we have that as a way to practice during the winter,” Riggs said. “It’s been a very helpful addition to our facilities, and it helps the players get more quality practice in.”
Both teams are coming off of fall seasons that saw a lot of good performances. The men’s team comes into the spring season on the heels of a runnerup finish at the Dayton Flyer Invitational, where junior Jules Blakely walked away with the tournament win and sophomore teammate Jack Hanus was right behind him in second.
While Blakely and Hanus had strong finishes to the fall season, junior Zach Robbins is looking to build off of a fall season that saw him near the top of the leaderboard multiple times. He had three tournaments where he finished in the top 10, with a best finish of third at the Eastern Kentucky Intercollegiate. While Robbins was happy to see his teammates win at Dayton, he is driven to be near the top of the leaderboard every time he takes the course.
“I’m competitive, and I want to be near the top of the leaderboard every single time,” Robbins said. “Even if it’s my teammates. It’s awesome that they won the tournament, but I want to beat them the next time out.”
The team is coming off of a bit of a down year, as after five straight Horizon League Championships, the team finished seventh in the conference tournament last season. Despite the tough finish to the season last year, Robbins says that the team has a lot less pressure on them this season heading into the spring portion.
“It takes a lot of pressure off of us because we are not the ones that are being chased this year,” Robbins said. “It’s nice to be in the chaser spot instead of the ones coming off of another conference championship. The ego and confidence that we had before is different from the past few years, but it’s still there.”
The women’s team is looking to build off of a fall season where they never finished below the top 10 as a team. Juniors Ashley Knight and Madison Butler lead the team as each had three top 15 finishes during the fall season.
Both had their best finish of the season at the Roseann Schwartz Invitational, where Butler finished fifth and Knight finished tied for seventh. Their finishes, along with a trio of Vikings finishing tied for 14th, resulted in a second place finish as a team.
Knight would also post a tie for seventh finish at the Shirley Spork Invitational, leading the team to an eighth-place finish. Both are coming off of a season that saw them finish in the top 10 at the Horizon League Championships, as Butler finished in fourth and Knight placed eighth. Even though she finished in the top 10, Knight thinks that her performance during the fall season will help her finish even higher in this year’s Horizon League Championship.
“Last year, I had a bad round on the final day of the conference tournament and went from tied for fourth at the start of the day to finish eighth,” Knight said. “I think if I keep progressing and building off of what I did in the fall, then I can finish higher on the leaderboard.”
In his first year as the women’s head coach, Riggs has liked how the team performed during the fall, but he wants to see the team continue to work to put an entire tournament together.
“I would like to see us piece together two days in a row at a tournament,” Riggs said. “We broke the school record for 18 holes, but we haven’t been able to put an entire tournament together.”