The cruelties of the game

I wish I would have told Chase Wright how well he played in Sunday’s final round of the Big Ten Men’s Golf Championships on the brutal Pete
Dye Course in French Lick.

I thought about that on the ride home. Instead, he had to answer questions about one hole that turned the tournament from Indiana’s to Illinois’ to win. That’s the cruelty of golf. Four players, each playing 72 holes over three days, and all the talk is about one hole. Seven shots out of the team’s 1,178.

But Wright, IU’s senior co-captain, made a triple bogey on No. 17 that, unfortunately, proved to be the difference in the end. And Illinois won its fourth straight Big Ten title, while IU had to settle for second place. (“You think second place is good,” IU coach Mike Mayer said, “but I can tell you second place doesn’t taste very good.”)

And Wright’s left standing all by himself, away from everything as Illinois was being celebrated on the Big Ten Network, feeling the weight of that one hole and not thinking about the other 17 holes he played even par. “It’s just … I really can’t describe,” Wright said. “I’d like to play that hole again.”

Lost in the emotionally draining finish was what the Hoosiers accomplished to get to that point.

They erased a seven-shot deficit coming in. David Erdy, David Mills and Brant Peaper all broke par as the team shot 1-under in the final round. They had it to 6-under at one point. All three birdie the long, uphill par 5 14th. Erdy reached in two, Mills somehow got up and down with a chip from the tall grass that skipped across the cart path and into within 15 feet.

“We had it right there, we fought all day to get it back,” Mayer said. “We made a move, then Illinois countered, then we made a huge move on 14.”

But in the end, the Hoosiers came up three shots short of giving Mayer his first Big Ten title in 14 seasons. Over that span, his Hoosiers have won 22 tournaments. But after Wright and playing partner Luke Guthrie of Illinois, the tournament’s individual champion for the second straight year, left the 18th green – Guthrie into the arms of his teammates, Wright inconsolable – Mayer was left to slowly walk across the green to get the flag, then walk back to stick it in the cup, wondering what happened.

“It was a tough walk,” Mayer said, fighting to keep his composure. “I’ve got some great kids on this team, and they wanted to win this tournament probably too badly. When you get that close, and you can taste, and you’ve worked so hard, and you’ve done so well only to see that kind of stuff happen at the end is tough.”

At least the Hoosiers have the NCAA regional next month, and if they play like they did this week in French Lick, the NCAA championships after that.

“We’ll be fine after today,” Wright said. “It just stings today. David and I have watched these guys win for four years.”

One comment

  1. Seeing Chase collapse into Coach Mayer’s arms was heartbreaking. For those that don’t know golf too well, this was the equivalent of being down twenty points at halftime of a basketball game, fighting your way back, and then losing on a half court, last second shot. Pat Beane, thank you for covering this tournament and your articles.

Comments are closed.