Lehigh junior Ryan Kelly takes a swing in practice on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, at Mulvihill Golf Learning Center. The men's golf team is entering their final tournaments of the season. (Kellie Gough/B&W Staff)

Lehigh men’s golf changes mentality and perseveres

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The Lehigh men’s golf team finished 13th out of the 20 teams at the Lafayette Invitational held March 31-April 1.

Senior Max Redetzke and junior Owen Quinn posted the two best scores for the team, having both shot 73 in the final round. Freshman Mike Tanaka also proved to be a major contributor, finishing with a score of 75.

The Mountain Hawks started their 2018-2019 campaign with nine players. Since then, three players decided to discontinue their athletic careers, bringing the team’s roster down to six.

A typical collegiate golf team carries eight or nine players on the roster. Lehigh played in the invitational with the minimum number of players required for Patriot League eligibility. Six players can play in each round and only the four best are counted in scoring.

Despite its slight disadvantage in regard to roster depth, the team has maintained its focus on the course and is prepared to take on the rest of the season.

Assistant coach Joe Zelechoski said he has a promising outlook going into the second half of the spring.

“The neat thing about this group is that they are extremely well-integrated,” Zelechoski said. “It’s a very easy team to coach and their attitude is really good.”

The team struggled in the beginning of the season as it adjusted to its compacted roster, but Zelechoski said recent tournaments have helped everyone establish greater confidence.

With Villanova’s Wildcat Invitational in sight, Zelechoski said each player will have to do his part and step up as a major contributor.

Thorough preparation is crucial to the team’s performance. The day before the start of each tournament, the team plays a practice round to get a feel for the course it will be competing on. The players work together to familiarize themselves with the environment.

“The practice round is a huge part of it,” said junior Ryan Kelly. “We work on putting, chipping, our approach and driving.”

At the beginning of the season, the team verbalized its frustrations and got down on itself. But after returning from spring break, where the Mountain Hawks placed last (313) in the UNCG Martin Downs Collegiate 13-team event, they decided they needed to take on the rest of the season with a different mentality. The team harnesses a “no tolerance for negativity” policy, in which the players emphasize the importance of maintaining confidence and building each other up.

“If you start talking negative instead of speaking out, you lock it up,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the “lock it up” phrase was coined to establish a positive atmosphere in which everyone has a greater opportunity to improve.

Zelechoski said there is a recognizable change in the energy of the team since the cultivation of this quote.

With three tournaments left to play before the Patriot League Championship, Kelly said he views each competition as a separate opportunity for the team to put all of the parts of the game together.

“We all need to believe,” Quinn said. “It will come down to playing golf the way (we all know) we can.”

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