MARICOPA, ARIZONA -- Virtually every coach at any level of athletic competition has a tendency to be a chronic worrier. Often the more successful his/her program, the more fretful a coach becomes. Count Vandal golf coach John Means among the worriers who run successful programs.
Means was not sure how his Vandal men's golf squad would react after their sterling performance last week in Iowa, including finishing ahead of defending NCAA Champion LSU and moving to a best-ever No.39 national ranking. On the heel of those successes Idaho headed to Arizona to compete in the University of Wyoming Southern Tournament at Ak-Chin Dunes in Maricopa, Arizona.
Turns out Means didn't need to worry. The Vandals won the team title by five shots over host Wyoming, while Vandal Rylee Iacolucci finished tied for second with Tyler Moore of Arizona in the individual competition, shaking off a two-stroke penalty on the 10th hole of his final round.
Means explained his anxiety: "I had some concern after our tournament in Iowa last week," he said, "...that the team might be complacent. This field was not as strong as the previous two fields, and I expected the team to be able to shoot low scores playing in Arizona in the fall, usually with great weather conditions."
The first day (36 holes) the field had nearly perfect playing conditions for the first 18 holes. "We shot 4 under par and found ourselves behind," Means said. Then the weather gods smiled on the Vandals.
"The wind came up in the afternoon," Means explained. "We shot even par and ended the day with a one stroke lead. In the final round (there were) big winds -- 25-30 mph. We know how to play in those winds, similar to what we saw in Washington's event this fall. (The team) responded by shooting the low final round, winning by five." Means added that the Vandals, "... were not satisfied with their play, a good sign. We still have a few kinks to work out."
Means summarized Iacolucci's woes on the final round. The senior from Cle Elum, Washington, "...played very well, 68-68 in the first two rounds" before being assessed a 2 stroke penalty on the 10th hole of his final round. The coach said the penalty was "...caused by my interpretation of a situation told to me by a rules official. It derailed his chances of winning, but despite that penalty, he shot even par from that point on, on the most difficult part of the golf course. I was very proud how he stayed focused. It was a huge learning move!"
The Vandals will have some time off before they head to El Paso, Texas for the Price's Give Em Five Intercollegiate Tournament Oct. 23-25.