The No. 19 Arizona State men’s golf team struggled in its first tournament of the 2016-17 season, finishing in 11th place last weekend at the Fighting Illini Invitational outside of Chicago.
"It was a very tough week for us," head coach Matt Thurmond said. "The course and competition were both at the highest level and you will get beat badly if you're not on your game."
The bright spot for the Sun Devils was senior Ki Taek Lee, who tied the best finish of his collegiate career. Lee tied for second and was the only player in the 78-player field to go 4-under on the par-3 holes. He posted 13 birdies, tied for second-most in the field, and shot a 1-under 209 (67-73-69).
"Ki Taek [Lee] was amazingly focused and hungry this week," said Thurmond. "He hit the ball very well and didn't make big mistakes. That's a great start to his senior season."
Although Lee had a strong performance, the rest of the team struggled throughout the tournament. The other four starters combined for a score of +79 over the three days of competition, and Thurmond attributes some of these struggles to three players making their Arizona State debut.
"Our three new guys in the lineup didn't have their best week," Thurmond said. "Alex and Blake showed lots of really good stuff. Unfortunately, a disastrous finish tainted their final rounds."
This tournament displayed the depth of young talent the Sun Devils have in large part because of how Thurmond chose his starting lineup. He held an eight-round qualifier to determine who would play at the Illini.
"We played eight rounds, tournament golf, with the 10 players on our team," said Thurmond. "It was an eye-opener at the beginning of the year. Coaches were picking, and I'm just letting them decide with their clubs."
This means when the Maroon and Gold make their next start on October 10-11 in Fairfax, Ca for the Alister Mackenzie Invitational, they will most likely have a much different starting five.
"We may decide to hold another qualifier or base it off of how the guys played," Thurmond said. "No matter what, we’re not going to have the same five guys out there, but I’m confident with anyone."