MUNCIE, Ind. -- The Ball State men's golf team heads to Nashport, Ohio this week for the Mid-American Conference Championship at Longaberger Golf Club.
The Cardinals enter the tournament with the second-highest ranking in the field, checking in at No. 56 in the Golfweek national rankings and No. 58 by Golfstat.
Four-time defending champion Kent State owns the highest ranking of all MAC teams at No. 22 by Golfweek, but an experienced Ball State group is primed to make a run for the title when the 72-hole event gets underway Friday morning.
All five golfers for head coach Mike Fleck have previous MAC Championship experience. Lazzara has the most, having competed in each of the previous three championships, while Gasser and Merkel have each played in two.
Merkel paces the team with a 73.00 stroke average this season and is rated among the top 100 players nationally in the Golfweek rankings. He is one of three Ball State golfers among the top 15 in the league in stroke average, along with Gasser (74.30) and Stinson (74.83).
Merkel, an NCAA Regional participant last year, won the Pinehurst Intercollegiate earlier this season. He finished second at the Firestone Invitational and has placed among the top 5 in five of Ball State's eight stroke-play tournaments.
The Cardinals won both the Firestone and Pinehurst events as a team and also finished second at the Pinetree Intercollegiate and the Mid-American Match Play. It is the first time the team has won multiple tournaments in a season since 2005-06.
Ball State will begin its quest for a championship Friday with tee times starting at 8:30 a.m. The opening day features 36 holes on the par-72, 7,243-yard layout at Longaberger, while the third round will be played Saturday and the fourth and final round on Sunday.
The tournament field includes all nine MAC men’s golf programs: Ball State, Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami University, Northern Illinois, Ohio and Toledo.
The Cardinals will be playing in twosomes with Ohio for Friday’s first and second rounds. Live scoring will be available throughout the tournament at golfstat.com.