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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette claws back to claim fifth Big East title in program history

Marquette men’s golf claimed its fifth Big East Tournament title in program history April 30 at Riverton Pointe Country Club. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus’ champion aura followed the Marquette golf team on his Riverton Pointe Country Club at the Big East Tournament this past weekend.

But the Golden Eagles’ fifth Big East Tournament title didn’t come with ease, as Marquette had to claw itself back from a slow first day and fight through extreme course conditions.

Nonetheless, Marquette finished at +9 on the weekend to claim its fifth Big East title and fourth under head coach Steve Bailey.

Bailey said the feeling of winning the Big East is a feeling that he’ll never forget.

“It never gets old, but it’s also never easy to win,” Bailey said. “This weekend was a fun experience to be a part of, and I am especially proud of the fight from our guys.”

Graduate student Tyler Leach had a feeling he said he hadn’t felt in a long time after senior Bhoom Sima-Aree dropped the three-foot putt in for the win.

“The last two times we played in the Big East Tournament, we placed second in heartbreaking fashion,” Leach said. “When we won this year, it was a feeling I hadn’t experienced. We finally got over that hurdle and won. Coming down the stretch in the past, we were leading, and then we’d play some holes poorly, and we’d just give up a lead and collapse.

“This year, we almost did the exact opposite, where we were somewhat trailing, and then right towards the end, we made a push, flipped the script, and took the lead. I was proud of us for being able to do that and come out with the victory.”

Leach launches Marquette into the lead

On day two, Leach’s career-low round of 66 (-6) not only tied Riverton Pointe’s course record, but it was the catalyst in vaulting Marquette into the lead heading into Sunday. The team shot nine-under on the day and shared the low posting of the day with St. John’s at 279.

Sima-Aree added a four-under card of 68 to the tally, his lowest round of the tournament, to move himself up to T4 individually, an 11-spot jump from a 73 (+1) in his first 18 holes.

Leach jumped up 29 spots in Round 2 after a first posting of 77 (+5). He said his success on day two didn’t come from anything technical and that it was only a matter of trusting his abilities.

“The first round I played horribly; it was one of my worst putting rounds I’ve had in my career,” Leach said. “Going into the second round, I just kept telling myself, ‘I don’t need to change anything. I just need to putt better, I just need to have more confidence in myself.’

“During the second round, I had (assistant coach) Jace (Long) walking with me and I had him read a lot of putts for me, and using those reads built my confidence and trust in him and my game. During the back nine, it dawned in me that I was doing something special, but I kept trying to remain in the present.”

Sunday Success

The field was tested tremendously by the conditions during the final round of play. Players faced up to 40 mile-per-hour winds and their scores reflected the rigor of the course conditions.

Lyons said the conditions on the back-nine Sunday made the finish challenging.

“The front nine was pretty gettable,” Lyons said. “Once you made the turn, it started to get windy. The thing with the course is the wind tends to swirl because we’re in a lot of pine trees. There were plenty of times when the winds just felt different from what the compass told us.”

Nonetheless, Marquette looked to hold its pinnacle position at the start of the day.

After battling for the lead with St. John’s for the title in the majority of the back nine, the par-five fifteenth proved to be the turning point for Marquette.

A Josh Robinson eagle supported by birdies from Leach and Sima-Aree helped the Golden Eagles post a collective three-under on the hole in the final round, compared to St. John’s even-par finish.

Sima-Aree’s posting of even-par on the final day was the second lowest score amongst the field in the final round and earned him co-medalist honors as he faced St. John’s Jack Simon in a playoff for the individual title.

He said he did not know Marquette was in position to be champions until after his tee shot on the 18th and that he wanted it to be that way the whole tournament.

“The main thing I focused on this week was committing to each shot,” Sima-Aree said. “Because I was so focused to committing on each shot, I was able to block outside things and just focus on my game.”

Bailey said Sima-Aree had more than prepared himself for those big moments.

“This guy’s in here every day before six o’clock,” Bailey said. “In those moments, you can’t fake it, and he’s able to rely on all those hours he’s put in. I kept telling him, ‘This is what you’ve prepared for,’ and this is when it all comes to fruition, moments like this. I couldn’t be more proud of all he’s done to lead up to this point.”

Ready for Regionals

Winning the Big East Tournament meant Marquette earned the automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament, to which it heard its name called as a No. 10 seed on Wednesday during the NCAA Selection Show. The Golden Eagles were placed into the Auburn Regional, which will take place at Auburn University Club May 15-17.

Bailey said its difficult schedule has been a factor in preparing the team for the regional.

“When you get to this point in the season, every team at every regional is good and you can’t worry about who’s playing,” Bailey said. “You have to keep your head down and focus on what’s gonna help you be at your best. We play enough events throughout the year that prepares us for these moments.”

Now, Bailey said, it’s time for the team to put all their hard work to the test.

“It’s a matter of our guys having a belief in our ability and doing the right things to prepare this week and get ready,” Bailey said. “There’s no magic formula either. You’re not tweaking swing mechanics, now you’re relying on all those hours and all the bricks we’ve stacked throughout the year and we’re trusting in the  great habits built throughout the year. I think, too, when you can play for something bigger than yourself, then special things can happen.”

This story was written by Trevor Hilson. He can be reached at [email protected] or @hilstontrevor on Twitter. 

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About the Contributor
Trevor Hilson
Trevor Hilson, Sports Audio Producer
Trevor Hilson is from Muskegon, Michigan and he is a journalism major. He is the Sports Audio Producer for the 2023-24 school year. In his free time, he plays a lot of golf and gives lessons to his friends. He is excited for the national championship banner going into the Fiserv rafters for men's hoops at the start of next season.

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