As much as Temple golfer Conor McGrath relies on his own mindset and fundamentals to thrive as the sole senior on his squad, it takes a team to succeed at the Division I level. Whether it is morale, competition or advice, each teammate looks to one another to help fuel the program.
During their two-month slump, Temple Men’s Golf lacked concentration on the greens, with potential birdies turning into three and four-putts. A sound approach shot has meant little for the Owls, and the team has kicked their play into high gear after a poor 11th-place finish at the Princeton Invitational on April 9, McGrath said.
“I’d say we’ve struggled,” McGrath said. “We have a lot of talent and I think everyone kind of got a little hungrier after last weekend with that poor showing.”
However, that hunger did not lead to results at the Rutherford Intercollegiate in State College, Pennsylvania, on April 15-16. The Owls finished in 11th place for the second straight week with McGrath, one of the Owls’ best golfers, only shooting a four-over 217 on the tournament.
Their weakest spot was in the four and five spots, with sophomores Joey Morganti and Jake Naese shooting 26-over and 28-over respectively. For comparison, Penn State’s first-place finish saw them shoot one-under as a squad.
“We need to play better one through five,” said Temple head coach Brian Quinn after his team finished second-to-last in the tournament. “But obviously our four and five spots really need to step it up.”
Quinn’s teams are known for their course management, a trait that takes experience to develop.
Last season, the team had former golfer Dawson Anders as the captain, a role that McGrath has needed to adjust into. McGrath has been teaching other golfers like junior Graham Chase and sophomore Ethan Whitney how to read their shots, but overthinking has become a problem for Temple, McGrath said.
Whitney and Chase have been some of the only golfers to continue to see individual success during the past three months but know it means little if the team fails to secure tournament victories.
“There’s been a few things I’ve struggled with throughout the semester,” Chase said. “I’m hoping to see some better results.”
Temple head coach Brian Quinn has coached former players like the PGA Tour’s Brandon Matthews who are able to drive the ball further down fairways.
While this current team may not have the same size as previous rosters, their fundamentals and smart decision-making skills are strong. However, overthinking each shot has been a mental obstacle for the team during their slump.
“We made too many doubles and big numbers and didn’t make enough putts collectively,” McGrath said about the Princeton Invitational. “I probably had five to eight holes that I wish I had back.”
Despite several bad showings, the team displayed glimpses of their potential during the ECU Intercollegiate on March 20.
Whitney, Chase and McGrath each finished within the top 20 at the tournament and placed more than 50 spots ahead of the nearest teammate. The team as a whole finished fifth out of 16 teams, their best performance of the season.
Whitney, who posted an eagle in the tournament and finished 5-over par, felt relaxed at Brook Valley Country Club, leading to a stellar showing.
“Instead of trying to overpower the course, I’ve been trying to think through it more,” Whitney said. “I have been trying to see different ways of how I can play different holes. Conor has done a really good job of showing me that and the same with coach Quinn.”
The team as a whole will need to take each tournament one swing at a time in order to succeed, focusing on the next shot instead of dwelling on mistakes.
Heading into the American Athletic Conference Championships on April 21 in Belleair, Florida, Temple Golf won’t need a complete overhaul to take home some honors.
A victory will take the entire team golfing at their best and feeding off of one another’s energy; with less thinking, shots may begin to fall their way.
“Golf’s funny, you don’t need to switch up a whole lot in order to shave off multiple strokes,” McGrath said. “It’s a lot more just where to miss the ball when you don’t have your best [shot] and just how to get balls up and down and keep it out in front of you.”