COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tyler Merkel hung in the top 20 individually, but Monday’s final round at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational was a challenging one overall for the Ball State men’s golf team.
The Cardinals struggled to a team score of 318 on the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club, dropping to 11th place on the final leaderboard with a 54-hole total of 916.
California extended its overnight lead, finishing as the only one of the 12-team field in red figures. The Bears, last year’s No. 1-ranked team that won an NCAA-record 12 tournaments, posted a 19-stroke victory at 10-under 842.
Oklahoma (+9) was second, followed by Oklahoma State (+11) in third and Kent State (+25) in a tie for fourth. All four of those teams played with Ball State in last year’s NCAA Nationals and are currently ranked among the top 25 in the country. The Golden Flashes tied for fourth with Purdue.
Cal’s Brandon Hagy finished 6-under for the tournament to hold off Kent State’s Taylor Pendrith by one stroke for individual medalist honors.
Ball State played well enough through Sunday’s opening 36 holes to enter the final round in a tie for seventh with hopes of climbing higher. But the Cardinals couldn’t find their rhythm throughout Monday’s round on the par-71, 7,455-yard layout.
Merkel was the top finisher for Ball State in a tie for 16th place among the 60 golfers in the field. The senior turned in a final-round 76 to close at 6-over par 219 for the tournament. He made four birdies Monday but also carded seven bogeys and a double bogey on an up-and-down day.
McCormick Clouser posted a 79 to end the tournament in a tie for 31st with a 54-hole total of 12-over 225, while Keegan McKinney closed with an 80 to finish at 232. Zach Yinger’s 83 on Monday left him at 242 for the week, and James Blackwell’s 84 brought his tournament total to 249.
The Jack Nicklaus Invitational was the fourth tournament in four weeks for Ball State with all four of them featuring talented competition. The young Cardinals have already seen 10 of the nation’s top 25 teams this fall. They will now take a two-week break from tournament action before teeing it up Oct. 14-15 at the Crooked Stick Invitational in Carmel.