SUGAR GROVE, Ill. -- The Ball State men's golf team closed the Northern Intercollegiate with a final-round score of 300 Sunday to finish seventh in the opening event of its fall schedule.
Local product Joe Gasser closed with a 3-over par 74 to tie for ninth place on the individual leaderboard with a 54-hole total of 222 (79-69-74). The senior from Yorktown, Ind., posted the fourth top-10 finish of his career.
Ball State's team total of 916 (317-299-300) was just two strokes out of a fifth-place tie with Virginia and UCF, a pair of teams that qualified for last season's NCAA Championship. The Cardinals finished three spots ahead of 2010 and 2011 national champion Augusta State in the 11-team field.
Indiana won the team title with a three-round score of 888 (308-291-289), finishing 15 strokes ahead of second-place Saint Mary's. Denny McCarthy of Virginia was the top individual finisher at 3-over par 216 (74-74-68) for the tournament.
Sunday provided improved scoring conditions following a challenging day Saturday at the par-71, 7,218-yard Rich Harvest Farms Golf Club. After Ball State was one of just two teams to post a sub-300 score over Saturday's first two rounds, six teams managed rounds of 300 or better on Sunday at the tournament hosted by Northern Illinois.
Gasser, who bounced back from an opening triple bogey Sunday to play the remainder of his final round in even-par, was 1-over for the last 36 holes of the tournament. Only one golfer in the field -- tournament medalist McCarthy -- was better over that stretch.
Ball State's best score of the final day came from junior Tyler Merkel, who carded a 2-over par 73. Merkel also closed strong over the final two rounds to move into a tie for 20th on the final leaderboard at 229 (82-74-73).
Senior Alex Stinson tied for 25th with a three-round total of 231 (79-75-77), while fellow senior Brodie Williams finished 31st at 234 (77-81-76). Another senior, Tony Lazzara, rounded out the Ball State lineup at 254 (84-83-87).
Ball State freshmen James Blackwell and Tyler Ostrom both saw their first collegiate action this weekend, competing as individuals. Blackwell closed with a 76 on Sunday to finish with a score of 245 (85-84-76), and Ostrom finished at 246 (81-81-84).
The Cardinals return to action Sunday, Sept. 16 with the first day of the three-day Golfweek Conference Challenge hosted by Iowa at Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, Iowa.
Ball State will host its own fall tournament Oct. 15-16 with the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational at Delaware Country Club in Muncie.