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Golf prepares for Big East Tournament

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Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

The Golden Eagles look to avenge last season’s second place finish in this weekend’s Big East Tournament. Marquette returns to the Callawassie Island Golf Club in South Carolina with the hopes of up-ending previous tournament champion, St. John’s.

Senior Brandon Cloete reiterated what his teammates have been waiting for all season.

“We’re all really eager to get down to South Carolina and get to work,” Cloete said.

To say that the Golden Eagles are excited for the rematch would be an understatement.

“We’ve played (St. John’s) throughout the season and we’ve played much better than they have, so we feel like we should be the ones coming out on top this weekend,” junior Pat Sanchez said. “We’re still a little bitter about the outcome last year, which has given us more motivated to win.”

The aforementioned St. John’s and DePaul look like Marquette’s strongest competition coming into the tournament. The two schools were the only teams that shot within 10 strokes of Marquette’s score last season.

However, St. John’s is only returning two players from last season’s championship team. Ryan McCormick and Ben Ludlam, who finished with the first and ninth overall scores respectively, graduated at the end of last season.

On the other hand, DePaul is returning with four of its players from last season. The Blue Demons only lost graduate Moritz Ackerhans, who finished tied for 31st in last season’s tournament. DePaul is expected to improve on last season’s third place position.

But given the player losses and growth throughout the season, Marquette looks and feels like the tournament favorite.

“We are all nervous and excited because it means a lot, but we’ve been working all season to control our nerves in adverse situations,” Sanchez said. “But, we’ve built confidence through our practices and tournament play all leading up to the Big East championship and the postseason.”

Last season’s second place finish was due in part to the team’s balanced scoring. Cloete was the team’s best performer in last season’s tournament, finishing in a tie for fourth place at 5-over par. Sanchez and CJ Swift were right behind Cloete, finishing in sixth and tied for seventh place, respectively. Juniors Zach Gaugert and Nick Nelson rounded out the scoring, finishing in 13th and tied for 21st place, respectively. All five golfers managed to finish in the top 21 positions out of the 45 player field.

The team focus this week was on controlling ball flight in preparation for the return trip to South Carolina.

“We want to make sure that when the pressure is on and we need to hit a certain shot shape, then we can pull it off,” Cloete said. “Thats a huge key when things get tough is to be able to miss in the right spots so that things don’t get away from us.”

The winner of the tournament will clinch an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. If Marquette wins, it would be its first NCAA Tournament since 2008. The 2007-’08 team finished in 24th place in the regional round of NCAA play.

Cloete hopes the wait for the return trip will lead to a Big East Championship.

“Like our coach told us, good things come to those that wait, and I think we have been patiently putting in a lot of effort,” Cloete said. “We’re all confident and excited that this is the week we have been waiting for.”

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