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Braves place fifth overall at Wildcat Invitational to start the season

Josh Kirkham follows through at the Wildcat Invitational in Manhattan, Kansas. Photo courtesy of Loyola Athletics.

Earlier this week, Bradley men’s golf opened the 2022-2023 season at Kansas State’s Wildcat Invitational in Manhattan, Kansas. The tournament was a two-day competition consisting of 15 teams and 54 holes.

On day one, the Braves got off to a steady start, finishing sixth overall. Senior Josh Kirkham led the charge, shooting back-to-back 72s in the first two rounds and a 70 in the final round. His opening campaign of 214 was good enough to earn eighth place overall and was the best 54-hole performance by a Brave in four years.

The Braves’ newcomers had a strong showing in the opening round. In his first collegiate outing, freshman Connor Hamm showed signs of experience, leading the Braves with a stellar round of one-under-par 71 that included six birdies. Hamm followed his first round showing with a score of 76 in the second round and a final round 77, which earned him 25th overall.

Graduate transfer Luke Armbrust finished third among the Braves on day one. In his first outing for the team, Armbrust fired a first-round 77 but improved tremendously in round two, shooting six birdies for a solid 71.

Finishing fourth and fifth for the Braves were seniors Roy Radke and John Stillman. After rounds of 76 and 80, Radke fired a two-over-par round of 74 to finish in 59th. Stillman came in at 67th overall, highlighted by carding a first-round score of 74. 

After a good collective opening two rounds, head coach Jeff Roche preached messages of steadiness to his team in preparation for a tougher round three.

“I told them that we played well,” Roche said. “We discussed that the course would be set up different and tougher the second day. We definitely needed to manage our mindset after a good first day [so] that we did not put pressure on ourselves. The key to the second day was to just be ourselves, trust in the preparation that we had put in and enjoy the process.”

The Braves’ golfers seemed to have digested their coach’s message well and moved up a spot in the team standings after the third round.

Kirkham improved on his performance from rounds one and two with a stroke of 70 in round three. The senior led the Braves, finishing with a two-under-par 214, which was good enough for eighth place overall. 

Despite the fact he played noticeably better on day two, Kirkham didn’t change much of his routine from the previous day.

“To be honest, nothing really changed from day one to day two,” Kirkham said. “I had my ball-striking going all week, so it was really easy to build momentum. It was nice to put three rounds together and help the team out.”

The Braves hope to build on a promising first outing on Sept. 19-20 at the Valpo Fall invitational.

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