Ashland University's men's golf team has played in two very different scenarios so far in 2017-18 – a one-day 36-hole outing on Sept. 5 in Blacklick, Ohio, and a two-day, two-round tourney on Saturday (Sept. 9) and Sunday (Sept. 10) in Bay City, Mich.
The Eagles' results, however, were similar – and pleasing. After a tie for third and a two-day score of 596 at the ODU Kickoff Classic, Ashland finished fifth and lowered that 36-hole team total to 583 at the Al Watrous Intercollegiate.
"They are playing great golf," said Ashland head coach Logan Cooke. "They're staying positive and giving themselves opportunities to score. All that we can keep working on is taking each of those good rounds from two tournaments and putting them together."
Three of Ashland's four rounds so far in 2017-18 have been sub-300, and the last of those – a 284 in Round 2 in Michigan – was the Eagles' lowest since the second round of the same tournament in 2011 (280).
Going into the third tournament of the fall, the Grand Valley State Fall Invitational on Saturday (Sept. 16) and Sunday (Sept. 17) at HawksHead Links Golf Course in South Haven, Mich., Cooke has seen his Eagles card some impressive scores.
Junior Austin Kondratick's 67 in the first round of the season was a career-low, and he is averaging 71.75 early on. Sophomore Patrick Steffen's 68 in the second round in Bay City is his low at Ashland, and his early-season average is 73.75.
"With him (Steffen), it's just keeping him positive," Cooke said. "He's a real good player. He's young, he has a lot of talent. It's kind of crazy how much talent this kid has. To see him fire that off in the second tournament of the season is exciting."
Freshman Ben Jones has two low rounds of 74 as he starts his college career, and is averaging 75.25. Junior Cole Smith, seeing full-time action for the first time as a collegian, shot a career-low 71 on Sunday and is averaging 75.5.
"He hasn't been there before, but now he knows the feeling," said Cooke. "He's a kid that can get to that under par, but he hasn't been able to finish a tournament yet. For him to stay in the moment and finish his round under par is huge for him. It's going to build his confidence."
Senior Chandler Walnsch has shaved almost a stroke off of his 2016-17 scoring average so far (77.6 to 77.0).
As for this weekend at HawksHead, Cooke said, "HawksHead is a great course. I've played there a bunch. It's a scorable course. I think they should be positive."