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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Men and women’s golf programs confident after solid fall seasons

Both teams have promising outlooks heading into spring as the second half of the golf season approaches.

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Matt Echelmeier practices swinging out of a bunker by following through up the hill causing grass to fly at Old Hawthorne Golf Course on Monday April 12, 2016.

Feb. 14, 2017

It may have been a relatively mild winter in Missouri, but that doesn’t mean the men’s and women’s golf teams won’t be looking to heat up the courses of Columbia. A season full of competitive tournaments awaits both squads.

Men’s Golf Preview

After a fall season in which they finished no lower than third place in any of their four tournaments, the Tigers look to continue their success heading into spring tournaments.

The Tigers rose to national recognition, reaching as high as 23rd in the Golfstat.com relative rankings in the fall, which ranks more than 300 college programs.

Seniors Euan Walker and Linus Lilliedahl emerged as stars and were influential in each of the team’s tournaments. If the Tigers are looking to continue their hot start to this season, it begins and ends with Walker and Lilliedahl. Both seniors will look to finish their careers strong and guide Mizzou through a strong second half of the 2016-17 season.

Walker shot three events under par and a total of eight rounds under par in the fall. He has also finished in the top 15 in every event he has competed in so far, including two top-five finishes. He is currently the ranked No. 77 in the NCAA, according to the Golfstat men’s head-to-head rankings.

Lilliedahl recorded a top-five finish in each event he has played in, including a tie for fourth at the Jackrabbit Invitational in the fall. He is currently ranked 90th in the NCAA.

Junior Hayden Buckley and freshman Rory Franssen were also key contributors to the fall season. The Echelmeier Brothers, senior Will and sophomore Matt, represented their hometown of Columbia well with solid play overall.

Each player competed in unrecorded practice rounds between the fall and spring seasons, but Buckley made news when he competed individually and won the New Year’s Invitational in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Buckley fired impressive opening rounds of 68 and 69, just months after recovering from a hip injury. He joined elite company with the victory, as current PGA Tour card-holding members J.B. Holmes, Brandt Snedeker and Jeff Overton have all won the tournament. It also boosted his individual rank up to 83rd in the country.

Coach Mark Leroux returns to lead the Tigers again for the spring season. Currently in his 12th season, Leroux looks to continue improving the Tiger golfers on and off the course in the spring season.

“We focus on the little things that make us better, and our measure of success goes beyond wins and losses in tournaments,” Leroux said. “It’s all about how much effort we put in.”

This season, the Tigers will compete in the SunTrust Gator Invitational on Saturday and Sunday in Gainesville, Florida. They will continue Southeastern Conference competition at the Auburn Tiger Invitational from March 5-7 in Opelika, Alabama, before taking the course at The Hootie at Bulls Bay in Awendaw, South Carolina, from March 26-28.

The Tigers will also compete in the Mason Rudolph Championship from March 31 to April 2 in Franklin, Tennessee, where No. 1 Vanderbilt will be tough competition for the Tigers. To close out the regular season, the Tigers will host the Tiger Invitational at the Club at Old Hawthorne from April 10-11.

The SEC Championship will take place from April 21-24 in Sea Island, Georgia.

Women’s Golf Preview

The fall season was also successful for the women’s golf team, highlighted by its victory at the Johnie Imes Invitational hosted at the Club at Old Hawthorne.

Mizzou continued their steady improvement in the fall 2016 season. Since the fall season of 2015, Mizzou has seen significant improvement as a program, winning three tournaments in that span. It’s a big step up from their past results, as they claimed only three team victories in the five years previous (2009-13).

Sophomore Emma Allen emerged as a star competitor for the Tigers, finishing at or below par in each of the Tigers’ three events. Senior Jessica Meek and sophomore Marit Harryvan also emerged as key contributors as the season progressed.

To start this season, the Tigers participated in the Florida State Matchup in Tallahassee, Florida, from Feb. 10-12. They finished fifth place in the tournament, and freshman Jessica Yuen finished 13th individually.

They will travel to Tuscon, Arizona, to compete in the Mountain View Collegiate Invitational from March 10-12. The schedule progresses into SEC play with the LSU Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from March 24-26. The last regular-season tournament for the Tigers is the PING/ASU Invitational in Phoenix, Arizona, from April 7-9.

The SEC Championship will be held in Hoover, Alabama, from April 23-27.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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