It’s been a tough few years for the Marquette golf team. Before Sunday, the program had not won a tournament since the 2008 Big East Championship.
Under third-year coach Steve Bailey, the Golden Eagles had finished anywhere from last place to the middle of the pack of most tournament fields they’ve competed in.
After each performance, Bailey would often stress the importance of getting a consistent top-to-bottom finish from his lineup. Last weekend, using his third different rotation of the fall season, he finally got it.
With a team score of 905, Marquette achieved that elusive first-place finish in the John Dallio Memorial, beating out runner-up and host DePaul by five strokes.
“It’s nice to have our hard work pay off,” Bailey said. “We had a mission this week to just believe we could accomplish this and to be tough. We knew the conditions would be cold and windy, but we wanted to push through them.”
Freshman Nick Nelson led the Golden Eagles with an overall score of 225, placing him in a tie for fifth place in the field of 80 golfers. Nelson started the weekend struggling through the first round with a 79, but he finished strong with a 74 in the second and an even-par 72 in the third to finish nine over par.
“I just stuck to the game plan,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t anything special, just solid golf. There were a few times today in the last round where I made a few birdies and got some good momentum going. It’s just kind of a confidence thing sometimes.”
Bailey said he was excited to have one of his younger guys lead the pack during such an exciting weekend and that his effort was very impressive for a freshman.
The team’s performance on par 3s and its overall fighting spirit stuck out to Bailey as big difference makers.
“(The par 3s) had a lot of water and had some length to them, but today we finished all three of them at 3 over par,” Bailey said. “They were the most difficult part of this course. Our guys knew they were close to the top after day one, and they fought hard to the end and never gave in.”
Marquette sported just a seven-stroke differential between its top and bottom finishers with freshman Zach Gaugert rounding out the scoring with a 232, good for a tie for 29th place individually.
Junior Corey Konieczki was the second best finisher for the Golden Eagles with a solid 227 and tie for 12th place. Konieczki has been a part of the team for all three of Bailey’s years as coach, and said the win set a new standard for Marquette.
“It feels great just to win and be on top of the field for once,” Konieczki said. “This week I felt I hit the ball much better, but the team really played much better as a pack. I expect more from us the rest of the season.”
Senior Ryan Prickette, who will graduate this December, finished third for the Golden Eagles, and was more than happy to be a part of the long-awaited victory.
“I’m thrilled,” Prickette said. “I’m just really proud of the young guys and excited for the future of the program and honored to be a part of it just before my time’s up. We’re getting better every tournament, not just with our games, but in our grit and determination and confidence.”
Marquette won’t compete again until Oct. 22 in the Pinetree Intercollegiate, but it will no doubt head into that tournament with a sense of swagger it hasn’t had in years.