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Comeback on the course for men’s golf at Valpo Invitational

Bradley golfer Roy Radke watches an iron shot. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

After two days of competition at the Valpo Fall Invitational, the Bradley men’s golf team brought back a sixth-place finish in a 17-team field.

Thanks to late-tournament heroics, the Braves continued their rise in 2022 after struggling for the better part of the last three years.

Senior Josh Kirkham shot a four-under-par 212, which was good enough for fourth overall in the tournament. Improving on his eighth-place mark from a week prior, Kirkham has had a historic start to the season and head coach Jeff Roche definitely saw why in this tournament.

“He played really solid from start to finish,” Roche said.

Another senior who showed up in a big way was Roy Radke. Shooting a season-best 72 in the last round, the Geneva, Illinois native finished just one stroke off the top 20 at 22nd.

“[Radke] played really well in the last two rounds,” Roche said. “Especially the last round; [he] shot even par.”

The strong effort from Radke helped him climb up the individual standings, as his last round resulted in a jump of 11 spots on the leaderboard. Graduate transfer Luke Armbrust also went up 11 positions on the final day after a third-round 75.

The lone freshman on the team, Connor Hamm, placed 32nd after a final-round 77. He started off the tournament well, shooting matching 75s in the first two rounds.

It did take some comeback effort to take home the sixth-place finish, as the first round did not go in favor of the Braves. After the first 18 holes, the Braves were in 10th place with a team score of 302, 14-over-par. When talking about the team’s performance in the opening round, Roche knows his team did not perform the way any of them wanted to.

“I don’t think anybody was too pleased with how we played,” Roche said. “To be able to respond shows some character.”

It was a unique experience for the team, as the second round played this past Monday was suspended due to darkness. They weren’t able to finish and had to make up a couple of holes the following day.

The team then had a 40-minute downtime, which also led to some uncertainty from Roche. However, the team quickly reassured their coach that they would be just fine as they jumped up to fourth place at the Invitational at one point.

“We didn’t panic; we just played Bradley golf,” Roche said. “They fought back with good stretches of holes afterward. It shows their character.”

Knowing a few less shots would’ve placed them higher at Valparaiso, Roche knows his squad can build on this for the next tournament.

“A number of bad holes; a lot of it is stuff that can be managed through,” Roche said. “It will be the little things going forward that ultimately decide if we finish sixth or fourth or second.”

Lastly, Roche outlined some keys to success for the team the rest of the way.

“Staying true to ourselves [and] not doing more than they need to,” Roche said.

The team hits the links again next week at Southern Illinois Edwardsville’s Derek Dolenc Invitational on Sept. 26 and 27.

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