Tigers finish second, Steelman fourth in South Carolina

Calum McAndrew

For the third time in his collegiate career and the second time this spring, Ross Steelman recorded a top-five finish for Missouri men’s golf.

He posted a round of 3-under 69 Tuesday, following another 69 Sunday and a 2-under 70 Monday to finish 8 under par at The Hootie Intercollegiate at Bulls Bay in Awendaw, South Carolina, propelling the Tigers to second place — their best finish in an event since Sept. 30, 2019.

Entering the event, the Tigers had not finished in the top 10 of an event all season. With just their home tournament and the SEC Championship currently remaining on the calendar, coach Mark Leroux said a good result at this event was necessary for Missouri to have any chance of mounting a run for a spot in the NCAA Regional.

“We really needed this,” Leroux said. “I just put it right out there in front of the guys. We played our practice round, we had our little team meeting, went over our yardage books, our game plan and just flat out told them there’s a time when you have to show up and you either pass or fail.

“It’s kind of like taking a driver’s test. You drive properly, they give you a license. You don’t, they don’t give you one.”

North Carolina State left Bulls Bay Golf Club with all the silverware. It won the team event at 18 under over the three rounds, two strokes ahead of Missouri. The Wolfpack also fielded individual champion Benjamin Shipp, whose rounds of 1-under 71 and a pair of 5-under 67s beat Auburn’s Andrew Kozan by one stroke and put Shipp three ahead of Steelman.

For the first time since Oct. 28-30, 2018, the Tigers posted three rounds under par as a team. They followed rounds of 6-under 282 on both Sunday and Monday with a 4-under 284 Tuesday. In all three rounds, three of their counting scores came in at even-par or better, including all of Steelman’s scores.

But Steelman wasn’t the only player for MU to record a season best.

A final-round charge from Yu-Ta Tsai handed Missouri its best score of the day and pushed him 29 spots up the leaderboard and into his best-ever result as Tiger. Tsai shot a 4-under 68 Tuesday, following rounds of 5-over 77 and 2-under 70 on Sunday and Monday, respectively, to finish in a tie for 18th. His previous best finish was 40th.

Rory Franssen had the steadiest week in the field. He posted three even-par rounds of 72 to end the week tied for 23rd — his lowest finish of the spring.

In the starting lineup for the first time this season, Tommy Boone was Missouri’s low-round in Round 1 with a 4-under 68 and a share of the early lead. Rounds of 1-over 73 and 3-over 75 dropped him back to even par and level with teammate Franssen on the final leaderboard in a tie for 23rd.

Walker Kesterson was 1 under through two rounds following a first-round 1-over 73 with a 2-under 70 in Round 2. A final-round 7-over 79 would hurt the graduate student’s standing on the leaderboard, dropping him 40 spots from tied for 17th to tied for 57th.

Viktor Einarsson competed as an individual for Missouri, posting rounds of 4-over 76, 5-over 77 and 3-over 75 to finish in a tie for 81st.

Though a productive week throughout the roster, it was Steelman who was again able to set himself apart from his teammates on a windy week in South Carolina. Despite Steelman’s length off the tee, Leroux attributed the redshirt sophomore’s solid play to his patience.

“Of the par fives there were two or three of them each day that you couldn’t get to in two, or you could, but you would be taking an enormous risk,” Leroux said. “Ross wasn’t tempted to do what he shouldn’t do in a few places on these par fives and played smart rather than with his muscle and it paid off for him.”