Swinging toward success

Chris Rambo and Chris Rambo

It started one week ago with a simple conversation.

BG golfer Matt Schneider was coming off a disappointing tie for 39th at the semester-opening Palmas Del Mar when he was telephoned by former teammate Jace Walker.

Walker, who currently resides in Scottsdale, Ariz. is preparing to make a run at a pro career. He told Schneider how much he had benefited from the tutelage of a mental coach, and offered some of the concentration tips that he found most useful.

Schneider seems to have taken the advice, as he followed that talk with a historic victory this weekend in the Ball State Cardinal Classic, calling it, “without a doubt, the best tournament of my college career and the best display of overall course management in my entire life.”

Coach Garry Winger was quick to concur with his senior.

“I’ve seen Matt play really well in the past, but I would have to say that is the best I’ve ever seen him,” he said. “He just blew the field away.”

At the conclusion of the tournament Sunday afternoon, Schneider’s final tally of three under 213 was the lone under-par total in the 84 man field.

It was enough to cruise home comfortably on Sunday by five shots over runner-up Nathan Kerns of Marshall.

With the victory, Schneider secured a permanent place for himself in the history of BG golf, tying former two-time All-American Ken Walters (1972-1975) for the most career wins in Falcon history (3), while also becoming the first Falcon golfer to win more than once in a season.

“This win is just a validation of Matt’s career and what he has done for us,” Winger said. “He has just been a wonderfully consistent individual over the years for us, and it has been a tremendous pleasure to watch him grow as both a competitor and a person.”

Schneider would establish a strong foothold Saturday, putting up matching 71s over the first 36 holes and taking a one-shot lead heading into Sunday.

“I really felt good about my approach on Saturday,” Schneider said. “I was making all the right decisions on the course, and staying away from trouble. Going into the last round I thought that as long as I stayed away from any big numbers then I would win.”

Sunday dawned damp and chilly with intermittent bursts of wind-driven rain, the type of conditions that bring any kind of score into play.

Five players started the day within three shots of the lead, but Schneider never wavered, parlaying his sublime inner focus into a third consecutive 71, smoothly gliding away from a field muddled with 74s and 75s.

“After every shot I just kept telling myself to stay confident and keep within the moment,” Schneider said. “Even though the weather was bad, I didn’t really mind it that much. I was just having fun being out there and executing shots.”

Meanwhile, the Falcons nearly took home top honors as a team.

Buoyed by Schneider’s steady play, the Falcons entered the final round playing in the last grouping, tied for the lead with Detroit Mercy and Eastern Kentucky.

On Sunday, the Falcons played like a team that was in the hunt, shooting 295, the second lowest score of the day.

However, in golf one can never control how their opponent fares and on this day, Evansville University blindsided the Falcons, shooting a superb 290 to rally from a three shot deficit to take medalist honors in the team category.

Although the sting of losing a close one rarely ceases for any competitor, Winger was able to take solace in the fact that it took a terrific round of golf to beat his team.

“This one definitely does not hurt as bad as some other tournaments where I feel that we gave it away,” Winger said. “I am absolutely proud of how we performed out there as a team.

“Our guys handled themselves very well all day in tough conditions and battled right down to the end. As a coach, that is all I can ask for.”

John Powers put in another solid showing, fighting off a first round 79 to come back and finish 70-76 and take home a tie for 19th at plus-nine 225.

In his first tournament back from suspension, Parker Hewit shot 75-75-79 for a total of plus-13 229 and a tie for 34th.

Drew Preston improved his score each day, shooting 78-77-76 to finish tied for 39th at plus-15 231.

Freshman Wes Gates had one of those nightmarish days, shooting 87-81 before nicely rounding back into form on Sunday with 72. He finished tied for 65th at plus-24 240.

The Falcons will take their second place finish to Wichita Kansas next week for the Diet Pepsi Shocker Classic, with the action beginning on April 5.