Shockers record highest finish at AAC Championships

The Wichita State men’s golf program recorded their highest ever finish at the American Athletic Conference Championships this weekend with a fourth place finish in Brooksville, Florida. 

After day one of the tournament, the Shockers found themselves in last place of the eight-team field at nine over par. WSU made a big climb on Saturday, pushing themselves back into contention with an 18-shot improvement from Friday. 

WSU was unable to climb any closer on the final day of the tournament as they dropped down to fourth place. Sunday’s performance helped clinch the first top-five finish at the AAC Championships for WSU since joining the conference in 2016. The Shockers had finished in 10th place in the two previous tournaments. 

“The guys really bounced back yesterday in the second round, that’s probably one of the best rounds in Shocker golf history,” head coach Judd Easterling said. “To shoot nine under par and get us back in contention. We legit had a chance to win today. They competed really hard again in the final round, playing with the leaders and pretty pleased overall with the fourth place finish.”

Marcus Wochner led the way throughout the week and finished in second place individually. Wochner entered Sunday with a three shot lead but South Florida’s Albin Bergstrom’s final round of 66 was enough to overtake Wochner. Wochner secured his runner-up finish at the tournament with a par on the final hole.

Wochner’s 17 birdies for this weekend were tied for the most among the competition. His 208 across the 54 holes were the best by a Shocker at a conference championship since Connor McHenry won the Missouri Valley Conference title in 2008 with the same score.

“He’s been our leader all spring, he’s played great,” Easterling said. “He’s got four or five top-five finishes now, especially going up against the AAC guys. It was a really tough field this week and to be the individual runner-up, it’s a testament to how hard he’s worked this semester, how prepared he is for every event and he’s come a long way this spring.”

All five Shockers finished in the top-35 for the tournament with Frank Thomas (T-15) and Zac Owens (T-17) earning top-20 finishes. 

In Easterling’s second season with the Shockers, WSU collected a title at the Grand Canyon Invitational along with three other top-five finishes. Easterling said that the spring season helped give the team a lot of confidence moving forward. 

“It went by so fast but they’re starting to believe in themselves that we can compete against the SMU and South Florida,” Easterling said. “To be able to finish in fourth and be able to finish in second or third if we get off to a better start. We’re getting better and I think the guys are starting to believe in themselves more and overall, I’m happy with the spring.”

WSU’s future looks bright as they are set to return nine of their ten players for next season. 

Easterling said with the improvement of the program over the past couple of years, the next couple of seasons could be special. 

“Every year we’re getting better,” Easterling said. “Next year and the year after that are going to be special with the guys coming back and the new guys we’ve got coming in. We took really big strides this spring, a couple of the returners worked really hard over winter break and last summer and last fall. I think next year and the year after that could be special for Shocker golf.”

Although WSU’s team season has come to a close, with Wochner’s strong performance at the championships, he could be in line for an at-large spot for an NCAA regional. The NCAA will announce its regional selections on May 5.