The Southern Illinois University men's golf team moved up two spots in today's final round to finish in fifth place at the Missouri Valley Conference Championships on Tuesday in Lemont, Illinois.
The Salukis (+51) shot the second-best team score (296) on the day and edged Evansville (+52) and also passed Bradley (+63) during the final 18 holes of competition. Wichita State (+19) narrowly beat Illinois State (+24) for the team championship and will advance to the NCAA Regionals in May.
"Our goal was to have the best team score of the day — we almost did that — and end this season on a positive note," said SIU head coach Justin Fetcho. "The expectation and the mindset of our program was to win the tournament, so whether you finish second or ninth, you're disappointed. Our Achilles heel is we've been too inconsistent this season. That came back to bite us this week."
SIU was led by freshman Sam Meek (+10), who continued his late-season surge and finished tied for 12th place out of 45 golfers in the individual standings. Meek was Even on the day and recorded three birdies, giving him nine for the tournament — the second most in the field. He excelled on Par 4 holes, in which he tied for second with an average score of 4.10.
"He's a fearless golfer, and just goes into attack mode and believes he can birdie every hole," Fetcho said. "Any time you're making as many birdies as the guy who won the tournament, you know the talent is there. Now it's a matter of learning when you can be aggressive and when to pull back the reins a little bit."
Teammate Peyton Wilhoit (+15) tied for 18th place and improved his score each round after starting out with a 79 in the first round. Today, he carded a 74 with two birdies and 13 pars.
Southern completed its season without achieving the goal of back-to-back MVC titles, but Fetcho is optimistic about the future of a lineup that includes two freshmen and a sophomore returning next season.
"We're starting to build something special here," Fetcho said. "It didn't come to fruition this week, but I've told every single recruit I have a vision for what this program can do and we're getting closer to that becoming a reality each day."
Fetcho also paid tribute to graduating seniors Brandon Carlson and Matt Greenfield.
"Those two guys bought into our program when we hadn't accomplished anything," he said. "They were coming here on a vision, worked their tail off, and played dang-near every tournament the last two years. I hate it for them they went out on a sour note and couldn't make a run, but I couldn't be more proud of what those two did. They will go down as part of something that had never been done here before."