A team effort that saw all seven participating Valparaiso University men’s golfers finish in the top 12 including six in the top 10 propelled the team to the Flyer Intercollegiate title on Tuesday at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Ill. Individual medalist Garrett Willis (Fort Wayne, Ind. / Homestead) led a balanced effort from head coach Dave Gring’s squad.
How It Happened
- Willis finished one stroke under par for the three-round event with a 215 after carding a 72 (E) in Tuesday’s final round. He went par or better in all three rounds and finished five strokes ahead of his closest competition.
- That closest competition included a pair of Willis’ teammates as freshman Mason Bonn (Sherwood, Ore. / Sherwood) and senior Brett Seward (Aurora, Ill. / Aurora Christian) were part of a three-way tie for second at 220 (+4). Both Bonn and Seward golfed as individuals. Bonn boasted the best third-round score in the 70-player field, stroking a 71 (-1).
- Sophomore Caleb VanArragon (Blaine, Minn. / Blaine) stayed in the top five thanks to his strong showing over the first two rounds on Monday, finishing at 222 (+6), which tied for fifth.
- Senior Jack Juskow (Greenville, S.C. / Hamilton Southeastern) continued his steady tournament with a 74 (+2) on Tuesday to finish the event at 223 (+7). He climbed into seventh on the leaderboard based on Tuesday’s results.
- Freshman Alex Heck (Greenwood, Ind. / Center Grove) turned in a 73 (+1) on Tuesday, his best round of the event. He rose six places on the leaderboard to crack the top 10 in his first collegiate tournament.
- Valpo posted a team score of 297 (+9) on Tuesday to finish with a 54-hole score of 880 (+16). That was 21 strokes better than runner-up Illinois Wesleyan at 901.
Inside the Round
- The three-round score of 880 cracked the top 10 in the program’s modern history, tied for ninth. In relation to par, the +16 over a 54-hole tournament is tied for seventh in the program record book.
- Willis captured his second individual medalist distinction after also winning the Zach Johnson Invitational last fall. In fact, his second individual win came nearly a year to the day of his first, as that event spanned Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 in 2019. Last year’s medalist honor was the first for any Valpo player since 2017, and now Willis owns tournament titles in consecutive seasons.
- The 215 was a familiar score as Willis matched his stroke count from his win at the Zach Johnson Invitational last year. This year it came on a par-71 course, so this year he finished one under instead of two over.
- Bonn and Heck accounted for two of the best three Valpo performers in Tuesday’s third round, an encouraging sign from the freshman duo.
- VanArragon nailed down the third top-5 finish and fifth top-10 finish of his young collegiate career.
- Seward recorded the first runner-up finish of his Valpo tenure. The senior notched his second top-5 finish and first since tying for fifth at the Titans Motown Collegiate as a freshman in October 2017. His 220 this week was the best 54-hole score of his collegiate career.
- Juskow had his first top-10 finish since tying for fourth at the Wright State Invitational in April 2019 and the second such finish of his four-year collegiate career.
- Valpo has now won team tournament championships in consecutive seasons after coming out on top at The Invitation at Savannah Harbor last spring.
Thoughts from Head Coach Dave Gring
“While every tournament victory is special, this one will remain quite memorable for a number of reasons. Our volunteer assistant coach Tom Brankin passed away four weeks ago and one of his favorite golf courses was Cog Hill Dubsdread. Coach Tom and I used to play our conference championship on this course every year, and he loved competing on this course. He would have been very proud of the team’s performance and he was certainly with us in spirit for this event. We missed having him coach our players the last few days. This team and individual victory has been dedicated to Coach Brankin.”
“I'm thrilled with the performance of the entire team and how well all of our guys played on this historic golf course. Cog Hill Dubsdread is an incredible test, designed with exceptional green complexes and well-bunkered throughout the course. The guys really managed the course well for all three rounds. In our preparation, we talked about accuracy off the tee, speed control on the greens, putting well and staying patient for all 54 holes. Everyone stuck to that game plan and the results were a lot of consistent play.”
“All seven of our players finished in the Top 12 individually and it was a thrill to have Garrett at medalist, with Brett and Mason at runner-up. This is probably the best that our team has performed from top to bottom in a single event since I started coaching. The guys have worked really hard in practice over the past five weeks, and I’m thrilled for each one of them. Garrett closed the tournament with another incredibly steady performance, never getting himself into trouble and playing to his strengths throughout the entire tournament.”
Valpo will clash with Missouri Valley Conference foe Drake in a dual match on Thursday, Oct. 15 at Spirit Hollow GC in Burlington, Iowa.