It has been a long spring filled with finishes toward the bottom of several team leaderboards for Temple. Now, with just one event left on the spring schedule, Temple will try to salvage its season at the American Athletic Conference championship on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Coach always says everything is a practice round for our conference championship, and if we can play well in our conference championship that kind of makes up for everything,” redshirt sophomore John Barone said. “It’s what we work toward all year long.”
In their first event of the spring, the Owls finished 17th in an 18-team field in South Carolina at the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Invitational, a tournament unfamiliar to many of the golfers. Temple’s next two events were more familiar, but the Owls continued to struggle. Despite being in the middle of the 22-team field at the Kingsmill Intercollegiate with a 13th-place finish, Temple finished 19th in its next tournament, the 21-team Furman Intercollegiate from March 24 to 26.
Earlier this month, Temple participated in an event much closer to home at the Princeton Invitational — but the results were more of the same. Temple finished 12th in a 14-team event.
The Owls have just one senior on their roster, and the bulk of 10-year coach Brian Quinn’s lineups this spring have been made up of freshmen and sophomores. Two of the younger players Quinn expects to play better are Barone and sophomore Trey Wren.
Barone tied 51st overall and first among Temple’s golfers at the Wolfpack Spring Open on Friday and Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina. Temple placed 15th in a 16-team field.
“John Barone really needs to step up,” Quinn said. “I’ve been saying that all year. He just hasn’t done it. … John works hard, but he just gets so down on himself. If we can get him to get out of that funk, he’ll be fine. He’s the best ball-striker I’ve ever had at Temple University.”
The team had to find new leadership in the 2016-17 season. The Owls are wrapping up their first season without 2016 alumnus Brandon Matthews, who is competing on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica circuit in hopes of qualifying for the PGA Tour. Quinn wants to see Wren or Barone take over Matthews’s role.
“We’re kind of on the edge,” Quinn said. “We do need something to happen here. We just need some clear leadership on this team.”
“I think Trey is the guy,” Quinn added. “Trey’s our hardest worker on the team, and John works really hard too.”
While Wren has finished in the top 20 of four events this season, only one of those finishes came this spring. He finished at five-over in the three-round Princeton Invitational to tie for 16th on the individual leaderboard.
But in those three rounds, Wren was wildly inconsistent. He shot a three-over 74 in round one, two-under 69 in the second round and four-over 75 in the final round.
In many ways, the Princeton Invitational was a microcosm of the Owls’ spring. Barone was Temple’s second-lowest scorer at the event but was still 13-over, which placed him in a tie for 48th.
“Nothing’s clicking right now,” Barone said. “Trey and I should be shooting between 68 and 73 every time we tee it up, but we’re not and that hurts the rest of the team.”
“We all have a job on the team, and it’s up to John and I to shoot around even par for the week and I didn’t do that,” Wren said.
After Wren and Barone, Quinn has been forced to shuffle the bottom three golfers in his lineup on a regular basis. At Princeton, Quinn removed junior Mark Farley and sophomore Sam Soeth from the lineup in favor of sophomore Gary McCabe and junior Bobby Firth.
The Princeton Invitational was Firth’s second-career start in his three years as an Owl and was McCabe’s first start since returning from a back injury. Redshirt freshman Erik Reisner also made a start at Princeton.
Prior to the Princeton Invitational, Farley shot a final-round 77 at the Furman Intercollegiate to finish 105th on the individual leaderboard. At the Kingsmill Intercollegiate, Farley and Reisner were the highest scorers for Temple. Soeth was Temple’s highest scorer in its spring opener in the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate finishing 32 strokes over par and shooting rounds of 79, 82 and 81 respectively.
“I’m probably the most competitive person, but that’s the first time I’ve ever done that with my team,” Quinn said.
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twiter @g_frank6.