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Ball State, Washington State needed heroics to be postseason eligible

Ball State, Washington State needed heroics to be postseason eligible

Mike Fleck, the longtime men’s golf coach at Ball State, has been talking about Golfweek’s National Golf Invitational all spring. As he coached his players over the .500 hurdle, he wanted them to understand what opportunities lay on the other side.

Postseason eligibility, for the NCAA and NGI, is contingent upon a team finishing the regular season with a winning record. The NGI decided to adopt that same postseason guideline to stay consistent regarding a team playing after its conference championship. Fleck spoke to his men frequently about the importance of getting into a postseason-eligible position, especially now that a new opportunity is on the table. The NGI debuts this year at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa, Arizona.

Ball State wasn’t far off the .500 mark after the first half of the season, but their spring slate was no cakewalk. After winning the Butler Invitational on March 28, Ball State ran the Power 5 gauntlet in April.

“We played in Vanderbilt’s event, which was a really strong field,” he said. “We played in Purdue’s event, which had Oklahoma and a handful of Big 10 teams and was a strong field. We played at Illinois and they had five or six Big 10 teams and it was a strong field.

“The challenge was there for us to try to get that thing north of .500. We kind of held serve at several of those events.”

Ball State enters the NGI ranked No. 132 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, but landed at No. 97 in Golfweek’s spring-only rankings.

The big test, and ultimately the performance that secured an NGI bid for Ball State, came at the Mid-American Conference Championship. A win would send the team to NCAA regionals as an Automatic Qualifier, but the Cardinals needed to be third or better to be postseason eligible. Fleck laid out both scenarios plainly.

“We felt like we had a team, and were playing with some momentum, that was capable of winning,” he said.

Ball State worked its way up from seventh after the first round to second and in the final round, paired with Kent State and Northern Illinois, the Cardinals held their position. The AQ went to Northern Illinois, and that was still a tough pill for Ball State to swallow. An NGI bid made it go down easier.

“It’s exciting and it’s something that college golf has needed for quite some time now to match up with our peer sports at the college level,” Fleck said of the NGI debut. “For us to be a part of the inaugural event I think is pretty…


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