Joiner’s breakthrough performance highlights Kemper Sports Invite

The Marquette golf team posted its best finish of the spring season Tuesday in Glenview Ill., placing seventh out of fourteen teams in the Kemper Sports Invitational.

The Golden Eagles’ top performer, however, was sophomore Will Joiner, who competed as an individual separate from the five-man Marquette squad.

It was a breakthrough performance for Joiner, as he finished 29th on the individual leaderboard with a three-round score of 224 (+8). His previous highest finish came last year in the Wolverine Intercollegiate, where he tied for 43rd overall.

Joiner said he was pleased with his effort to back up a second-round one-under par 71 with a 76 and 77 in the first and third rounds, respectively.

“I haven’t had the best start to my college career, so its feels good to finally play one solid round and keep together in the other two rounds,” Joiner said. “I just need to hit a few more greens now that I’ve got my speed down.”

Coach Steve Bailey said Joiner’s performance was promising, as he’s seen gradual improvement in the sophomore’s game.

“He’s had a lot of good stretches of play,” Bailey said. “The one thing we talked about with him was showing up when it really matters. It impressed me that he actually played his best when the weather was the worst. In the pouring cold rain he stepped his game up. Then in the final round, he got off to a rocky start and shot one-under on the back nine.”

Freshmen Patrick Sanchez and Zach Gaugert led the improved five-man squad, finishing right under Joiner in a tie for 30th place on the individual board. Both players finished with a score of 225, with Gaugert shooting an impressive two-over par 73 in the second and third rounds.

Bailey said the most noticeable difference was his team’s putting. The Golden Eagles made their short game a major focus this season.

“We put so much time and effort into our putting and particularly our speed work,” Bailey said. “We need to show good confidence from four to six feet away and continue to make these strides over the next week.”

Joiner echoed his coach’s thoughts on the short game and the effect it had on his improved finish.

“We definitely needed to focus on putting,” Joiner said. “Our speed control has been awful, and we’ve put a lot of work into it. It saved me several strokes this week.”

Marquette won’t see action again until the Big East tournament, starting April 28 in Reunion, Fla. Bailey said every spring event is preparation for the Big East tournament, and if it continues to trend up, he thinks his team will make a big run against the Big East field.

“We need to maintain a belief in what we do,” Bailey said. “If we continue to believe in our preparation, work on our short game and ball striking and can control our golf ball a little better, it can all add up to a big run in the conference tournament.”