The start of a new campaign brings excitement and optimism for all golfers alike, but expectations may be dampened when knocking off the rust from the off-season. The latter certainly showed on Sept. 5 and 6 as the Bradley men’s golf team placed 14th out of 15 teams at the Hoosier Invitational, which was loaded with talent.
According to junior Josh Kirkham, the team’s season opener served as a reminder of what the team needs to work on going forward.
“For the fact that there were some good top-50 programs in the event, it’s helpful to see where we stack up heading into the rest of the season, since there were a lot of the [Missouri] Valley teams in the event,” he said.
Individually, it was Kirkham who led the Braves by shooting 17 over par (230) and finished in a tie for 47th place. Senior Jalen Hodges earned a share of 64th place (237), and juniors Roy Radke (247) and John Stillman (248) narrowly outscored sophomore Brady Kreiter (250), rounding out Bradley’s five golfers.
“Josh [Kirkham] played really well in the first round; Jalen [Hodges] had a good round in there,” head coach Jeff Roche said. “It was just good to get out there and compete and get some of the nerves out of the way. The players had some higher expectations, and sometimes that gets in the way every once in a while when you’re trying to climb the leaderboards.”
Cincinnati and Illinois tied for top honors at the invitational (858), followed by Indiana just two strokes behind. Rounding out the teams who had a sub-900 score were Illinois State (875), Valparaiso (884), Memphis (886) and a three-way tie involving Ball State, Miami (Ohio) and Lipscomb (888).
North Alabama (907), IUPUI (947) and Butler (948) beat out the Braves as well, and Bradley posted a total score of 958. 13 strokes separated the Braves and MVC rival Evansville (971), who finished last.
Next up for Bradley is a trip to Kansas State, where the Wildcat Invitational will be hosted on Sept. 13 and 14. Roche noted that Aaeri Krishnan, an ex-Jacksonville University golfer and Malaysian graduate student, will be making his Braves debut at the invitational.
“Putting him in the lineup, regardless of anything else, it’ll create a little stability,” Roche said. “Just the composure, age and experience adds one extra person in there that you can rely on for a score.”
Alongside Krishnan in the lineup will be Kirkham and Hodges, although the other two spots that have not been confirmed by Roche, who said that the Wildcat Invitational will be “a good test.”
“It’s new to us; it’s the first time we’ve played there since I’ve been at Bradley, but I think it’s similar to the course we just played on,” Roche said. “Controlling your golf ball will be a focus. We had a few penalties last weekend but it wasn’t terrible, so it’s more about just making sure we are hitting more fairways.”