In the first meet of the fall season, golf head coach Tim Grogan was anxious to see how his veteran team and new recruit would perform under real playing conditions.
To his surprise, freshman Mike Van Sickle shot a school-record eight-under, the lowest score for a Marquette player in a tournament — breaking sophomore Ted Gray's mark from a year ago — to finish second individually. He finished two strokes behind Oakland's Jonathan Pauli. Van Sickle, Marquette's only freshman, also led the field with 15 birdies.
"Mike proved to us that he can play at this level, and play right away," Grogan said.
While stand-outs Joe Weber and Gray struggled early on, Van Sickle's outstanding debut helped Marquette to a second-place performance, a combined 10-under, 854, for the tournament. The Golden Eagles finished nine strokes behind host and winner Bowling Green.
Van Sickle had struggled in practice with his game, but work on the driving range, the putting green, and a little advice from his father, Gary Van Sickle, a senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated, paid off.
"He told me to keep my head still. It's funny because I'm in college, but my dad is still giving me advice, and he's right. It's so basic, so fundamental, but it worked," Van Sickle said. "I started hitting the ball well, and that made a huge difference."
Van Sickle's teammates took notice of his play as well.
"I am very impressed with Mike," said senior captain Nathan Colson, who tied for seventh individually at two-under. "We couldn't have expected more from a freshman."
Marquette stumbled out of the gate, shooting an even-par 288 in their first round, but came back strong, shooting five-under, 283 in the second and third rounds.
In the first two rounds "there were a couple of holes where it was possible to make birdie (but) mistakes were made. We were taking bogies," Colson said, "We were getting penalized for loose shots."
Coach Grogan called his team's performance "a little sloppy, especially in short game and around the greens" but was optimistic nonetheless.
"We played well, but the real positive is that we haven't played our best golf yet. If we can get everyone to play to their potential, our best golf is still ahead of us."
The team believed that nerves were not responsible for the slow start.
"Everyone has been on the course playing in tournaments all summer," Colson said.
Van Sickle, playing in his first collegiate tournament, was surprised at the lack of nerves he had on the course.
"It felt a lot like high school," Van Sickle said. "I just focused on shooting as low as possible."
The two-day, 13-team, 54-hole tournament was held at Stone Ridge Golf Club, a par-72 links-style course in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The players had to endure windy conditions on the open course, but were extremely pleased with the summer weather and course conditions.
"The greens were firm and that helped keep the scores low," Grogan said.
Marquette's next meet will be Sept. 26-27 at the Cardinal Intercollegiate in Louisville, Ky.
This article was published in The Marquette Tribune on September 15, 2005.