Mizzou hosts Tiger Invitational, finishes 3rd

Botta posted career best finish in the final home tournament.

The stage was set. After two rounds, Mizzou was five shots back from the invite leader, Texas Christian University. The Tigers were right there for a three-peat in their own invitational. Senior Luigi Botta had shot 5-under for the first two rounds.

“We’ve been searching for guys towards the bottom of the lineup,” coach Mark Leroux said. “To have guys stepping up, especially towards the end of the year, is good.”

Botta had never finished under par in his Mizzou career heading into the Tiger Invitational. The senior from Cuneo, Italy changed that, finishing 1-under for the tournament. His struggles in the third round can likely be attributed to him not being fully healthy.

“I pulled a muscle in my back five holes from the end of my second round,” Botta said. “It was certainly a challenge. I wish I had another go at it with a better back. ”

Regardless of his struggles in the third round, it was still a career best finish for Botta in his final home tournament.

“It’s been a great five years for me,” Botta said. “Obviously, you’d like to end on a higher note, but I’ve loved every minute of my experience at Mizzou. Every time I’ve worn the black and gold, I’ve given 100 percent.”

Much like Botta, the Tigers as a whole struggled in the third round. They posted their worst round of the tournament by 21 strokes. This landed Mizzou in third place at 19-under par. Errant tee shots were the main culprit for the collapse, but no part of the Tigers’ game was sharp enough to contend for first place. Leroux thinks this may have been a byproduct of his team putting too much pressure on themselves.

“We knew where we stood score wise,” Leroux said. “And we really started to press. When you see a hole you needed to birdie, and make par or bogey; that can take the wind out of your sails.”

One of the mantras Leroux instills in his team is “husky finish.” This means finishing strong, especially on holes 15 through 18. The Tigers struggled on those holes in the third round.

“We generally play those holes under par,” Leroux said. “Those are generally easier holes, and we played those holes over par. That was probably the difference.”

Botta will look to carry over the momentum from his career best finish into the SEC Championships.

“Obviously we have to regroup a little,” Botta said. “There’s still a lot to play for. A good finish can propel you up the rankings and to a regional.”

After such a disappointing end to the regular season it will not be an easy task for the Tigers to regroup, but Botta believes that the team has what it takes to bounce back.

“The attitude is important; everyone is trying, working hard,” Botta said. “We love each other. We play for each other, so that’s a good foundation to build from.”

The SEC Championships are April 24 through 28 in Sea Island, Georgia.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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