COVID-19 puts abrupt ending to hopeful golf season

Hunter+Eichhorn+swings+his+club+at+the+Marquette+Intercollegiate+at+Erin+Hills.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Marquette+Athletics.%29+

Hunter Eichhorn swings his club at the Marquette Intercollegiate at Erin Hills. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

As the men’s golf team completed their practice round at the BIG EAST golf championship at Callawassie Island Club, head coach Steve Bailey was eager for another chance at a championship win. However, like all other events this spring, the men’s golf season came to a halt.

“There was really no script on how to handle (this). It was a hard message to have to give,” Bailey, who was among the first on the team to receive the news from the university’s sports administration, said.

The four-time BIG EAST Coach of the Year said the news brought a “roller coaster of emotions for the team” as their run for a back-to-back BIG EAST title was impeded.

“We were basically telling our guys, on the sight of our conference championship, that there was not going to be one and that the NCAA canceled the entire season,” Bailey said. “Just a roller coaster of emotions for everyone. Our journey started back in (September) and to get this far along and to not be able to finish off what you started, took hold (of us).”

The spread of COVID-19, or the coronavirus, has affected nearly every competitive sports league, from the NBA, the BIG EAST, to even the 2020 Summer Olympics.

It’s something that Bailey said he saw coming.

“From the time we started our round that day, we started getting whispers on conferences canceling their basketball championships and it seemed like there was a domino effect,” Bailey said.  “We then saw that the SEC (Southeastern conference) cancel all sports for the spring. … Before we were done with our round we had received an email and saw on social media that the NCAA had canceled all winter and spring events.”

Two-time All-BIG EAST First Team honoree for golf, Hunter Eichorn, said some seniors may still call it quits by the end of the school year, even though the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Division I athletes who participate in spring sports. 

“For myself, I have a year left,” Eichhorn said. “Based on what I am seeing, many seniors are closing the book on their (athletic) careers which is unfortunate that they did not get to compete in their last few games or tournaments.”

Now that his junior year has quickly come to an end, Eichhorn has eyes already locked on his final year of play.

“I am basically a senior now,” Eichhorn said. “I just have the mindset that this is my last year and this summer is going to be an important one as far as getting myself prepared for my senior year — It is something that I am really looking forward to.”

Although he understands how difficult the quarantine can be, Bailey still sees ways the team can take advantage of the break.

“We can schedule things for work in our calendars every day, but do we also do that for our families?” Bailey said. “I told the guys to use this time to spend time with the people that love you the most. Make the best of it.”

In order for him and his players to make the best of the hiatus, Bailey encourages being surrounded by positivity and self-care.

“Surround yourself with positive things whether it is reading, listening to podcasts, mediation, etc.,” Bailey said. “Do things that are going to build you up that are going to create that positive energy and surround with people who are living that way as well.”

For Eichhorn, he is optimistic that the team chemistry will still be strong come next season.

“We are a pretty tight-knit group, a pretty small group,” Eichhorn said. “I do not think the (break) will have any negative effect on our chemistry or anything like that.”

As for the seniors, Bailey said he is truly grateful to have coached a group filled with great leaders.

“We talk a lot about striving for excellence and these guys have really exemplified that,” Bailey said. “They are great students, have been great ambassadors for our program, and they have performed well on the golf course. I am thankful for the time we have been able to share with them for the past four years.”

This article was written by Andrew Amouzou. He can be reached at andrew.amouzou@marquette.edu.