November 28, 2020

Golf team struggles at own event, finishes sixth in 14-team field

Webster University sophomore Andrew Noble hits a drive during the second round of the Gorlok Spring Invitational on April 2 at the Sunset Country Club. Noble shot an 86 in the first round and an 83 in Round 2. As a team, the Gorloks shot a 626 at the two-day event and finished in sixth place. PHOTO BY MAX BOUVATTE.

The Gorlok Spring Invitational field was loaded with three top-35-ranked teams. However, Webster University golf coach Andrew Belsky still entered the tournament believing his squad had a chance to win its own event.

But the Gorloks struggled as the host, finishing sixth in the 14-team field. Webster shot a 58-over-par 626 at the two-round event on April 1 and 2, which was 36 strokes back of first-place Central College.

“My ultimate goal was to finish in the top three, and I thought that if we played well, we could win,” Belsky said. “But we were going to have to play well. We did not.”

Webster was unable to capitalize on a familiarity with the event’s two courses — Forest Park Golf Course and Sunset Country Club, the Gorloks’ home facility. The 14 teams played their first 18 holes at Forest Park Golf Course on April 1, and their second 18 holes at Sunset Country Club on April 2.

Belsky said the 14 participating teams, which included six St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference squads, comprised “the top-ranked field that we’ve ever had.”

According to golfstat.com, Central is ranked 33rd in Division III, Millikin University (second place) is 30th and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (fifth place) is 29th. As of April 3, Webster is ranked 87th.

Though the Gorloks had an off tournament, they can take solace in the fact that the five other SLIAC squads at the event finished well behind Webster’s two-day total. Spalding University came closest to catching Webster, but the Golden Eagles still finished 17 shots behind the Gorloks.

Belsky said his team was playing well entering the tournament, and there weren’t signs the Gorloks would struggle. But Webster played in only one spring event prior to the Gorlok Spring Invitational, a March 11 dual-meet victory over Husson University.

“We played the one dual-match on spring break — while it’s competition, it’s not a real tournament setting,” Belsky said. “And so, I have to worry that there’s going to be some nerves involved. There’s going to be a process of kind of getting yourself under control, and I think that’s part of what happened to us. We were letting our nerves come out, and we struggled because we were trying to get rid of them.”

Webster opened the Gorlok Spring Invitational by shooting a 308 in the first round, good enough for sixth place. The Gorloks followed that up by shooting a 318 in the second round.

Freshman Matt Vanderbeek led the way for Webster with rounds of 78 and 77 for a 13-over-par total of 155, which placed him tied for 26th in the individual standings. Junior Kyler Scott and freshman Tanner Rabb both finished one shot back of Vanderbeek.

Junior Dan Klipsch shot 80-80, which tied him for 40th individually. Junior Steven Kinsmann shot 83-83 to round out Webster’s scoring. Belsky said chipping and putting will be focal points at upcoming practices, as the Gorloks struggled in those areas.

“I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, or at least I try to be. So, I tell them, ‘Am I good with where we are? No. Am I OK with where we are? No. I’m disappointed,’” Belsky said. “But at the same time, we have an opportunity in front of us that now we know what we need to work on. Let’s go fix what our problems were and play better at Illinois Wesleyan. You have to try and keep them upbeat.”

Vanderbeek said the Gorloks need to do a better job regarding the mental aspect of their game.

“We need to prepare better mentally,” Vanderbeek said. “I’d like to say we were physically ready for the tournament. But mentally, we just need more strength out of our whole team to play with players from other schools — that tournament mindset.”

The Gorloks travel to Normal, Ill., to participate in the Illinois Wesleyan Invitational on April 6 and 7. Webster then visits West Lafayette, Ind., to play in the Taylor University Invitational on April 9 and 10. Belsky and the Gorloks will be hoping for improved performances at those two events.

“The big key is they have to keep believing in themselves,” Belsky said. “And we have to play 18 holes, not just 15 or 16. If you look at our scorecards from (the Gorlok Spring Invitational), almost every one of the guys played like 15 holes at even par or one-over par. And then they had two or three holes where it’s like the rocket ship going to the moon — they were just off the charts.

“I told the guys before we played that I was concerned about that. Watching us practice, we were playing about 15 or 16 holes, and that’s the way it turned out in the tournament. We just have to keep practicing and getting competitive swings in and it will be there. We are way too talented to still be sitting there having the same issues by the time the season comes close to an end.”

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