Erin Hills provides “great barometer” for golf team

The Marquette golf team got a unique opportunity to host the Erin Hills Intercollegiate this week. Despite the team’s eighth place finish, coach Steve Bailey described hosting the tournament as a “groundbreaking step” for the program.

“The fact that we were able to host at a future U.S. Open venue and attract the caliber of teams and players that we did will help our program move forward,” Bailey said. “Not just from a reciprocal standpoint but for recruiting as well.”

The tournament featured top-tier talent as the field of 14 teams included No. 8 Stanford and No. 3 UCLA. Among the individual stars were Northwestern’s Matt Fitzpatrick, the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world, and Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers, who won the event as an individual with a 7-under-par overall score of 209.

Bailey said the event served as a solid measuring stick for the Golden Eagles’ standing compared to the nation’s best. He was impressed with his squad’s ability to hang with them, especially early on.

“Ballstriking-wise, our guys can hang right with the best players in the world,” Bailey said. “They don’t hit it any differently, but one of the differences is they can putt it and short game it from anywhere. They make good decisions, and they’re a little tidier than our guys down the stretch. It’s really a small gap that makes the difference.”

Bailey was particularly impressed with redshirt sophomore CJ Swift’s effort as his first round 72 was just one stroke behind Fitzpatrick’s first round score and even with Rodgers’ second round score.

“It was a great experience to compare with them and match my game up with theirs,” Swift said. “It gave me confidence that I was right there with them. You might see those two players on this course again at the U.S. Open.

“It all came down to things like making a putt from 15 feet to save par. It really all comes down to the little things, but our shots off the tee were just as good as theirs.”

Sophomore Patrick Sanchez led Marquette with a strong finish to tie for 33rd place on the individual leaderboard. Freshman Henry Klongland followed in a tie for 38th place with an overall score of 224. Sophomore Zach Gaugert competed as an individual and his stellar first round score of 68 matched Rodgers.

The Golden Eagles finished four strokes ahead of in-state rival Wisconsin and ahead of Michigan State, Wisconsin-Green Bay and DePaul.

“It was a great barometer for our program,” Bailey said. “We’re going to take a lot of positives from it. We need to improve on not compounding our mistakes, and not making big numbers down the stretch. The publicity we gained from this is going to be good.”