The Wright State golf team spent part of last weekend poring over scores from other conference championships, seeing who else seized a spot in the NCAA Division I tournament.
During that gathering, second-year coach Brian Arlinghaus made a salient point with his players.
“There were some teams that had a couple players playing really, really well and leading tournaments individually, but their teams were nowhere near it. One of the things I told them is if we’re going to do well, we have to do well as a team,” he said.
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“Everyone has to be ready to step up. That’s exactly what our guys did at the end of this year. And as long as I’m a coach, I can promise you, I’d rather be deep as a team than just strong at the one and two spots.”
The Raiders will take six players NCAA regionals May 13-15 at Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, Wash. Five will play each day with the four best scores counting toward the team total.
That was the same format at the Horizon League championships last week. Of the five who teed it up, each was needed at least once during the three rounds in the eight-stroke victory.
But Arlinghaus, who has a Master’s degree in sports psychology, needed to be part coach and part shrink to generate those team-wide contributions.
Sophomore Nathan Arnold started with rounds of 79 and 84, which could have put him in danger of being pulled from the lineup. But Arlinghaus wasn’t thinking that way.
“I think Nate’s feeling after he shot 84 was, ‘I’m benched. I’m coming out,’” he said. “But I made sure I told him (he was in) immediately after the round — because I didn’t want him sitting and sulking and playing the uncertainties out in his head. You could see it was like Superman putting on his cape.”
Arnold finished with a 1-over-par 73, which meant the Raiders wouldn’t need the 76 from junior all-league player Austin Schoonmaker of Springboro.
Freshman Cole Corder also needed a pep talk after opening with a 78.
“I could tell he was very much in his head with his golf swing, thinking about mechanics and trying to be perfect,” Arlinghaus said. “After round one, I took him over to the side of the range with a 4-iron and put him in the middle of the trees. I’d say, ‘Alright, I want you to hit a low cut under that branch.’ And he’d do it. I’d say, ‘Hit a high hook around that tree.’ And he’d do it.
“We probably did that for an hour and a half. He looked at me at the end and said, ‘I feel very free.’ That was the whole point.”
Corder posted back-to-back 71s to finish third and make the all-tourney team along with sophomore Bryce Haney of Huber Heights.
“It sounds so arrogant to say this, but I’m not surprised,” Arlinghaus said of the team’s first league title in 15 years and seventh overall. “It’s not like we came out of nowhere and put together three miracle rounds. We played good golf for longer than everyone else. And sometimes, that’s what it takes.”
There are 81 teams competing at six regional sites. The top five in each region advance to the NCAA championships May 24-29 in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Raiders, who are seeded 13th out of 14 teams in Pullman, have yet to qualify for the nationals in four previous NCAA appearances.
“If we have to make eight or nine birdies a round as an individual, we’re going to be in for some bruises,” Arlinghaus said. “But if they set it up difficult, and it’s a straight-hitter’s course and the greens are quick, we can absolutely beat some teams we’re not supposed to beat. We can do something special.”