The good news for Ashland University's men's golf team is that it's playing well at the right time.
The bad news for the Eagle men? There is little time to celebrate their most recent accomplishment – a team win for the first time in more than five years.
Ashland's men won the Ohio Valley University Spring Championship to conclude March with a team score of 289-295—584. It was the Eagles' first team title since Sept. 10, 2012, at the one-day, 36-hole Ohio Dominican Invitational.
"For the scores that they shot, it really didn't matter who was at the tournament," said Ashland head coach Logan Cooke. "They'd have competed with anybody. It was nice for them, in the conditions that we had, to execute. My guys took that as motivation."
All that remains on the schedule prior to the 2018 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships, April 20-22 at The Virtues in Nashport, Ohio, is the one-day, 36-hole Mount Vernon Golf Invitational on Saturday (April 7), and the two-day Bill Blazer Memorial in Pataskala, Ohio, on April 13-14.
"I told these guys, the ultimate goal is to place well at conference," Cooke said. "I wanted them to get into a winning position and possibly get that win before conference. I wanted them to finish a tournament before getting into the big one.
"Now that they know that feeling…it's going to be second nature, hopefully."
In two spring events, the Eagles shot 313-310—623 at the par-72 Findlay Spring Invitational, then won the par-71 OVU Spring in less-than-ideal weather conditions. Leading the way, as he has the entire 2017-18 campaign, is junior Austin Kondratick, who was the medalist at Ohio Valley and is averaging a round of 72.75 this spring.
"He keeps up with all the top guys in the conference," Cooke said. "There's not a big gap between them. With his mindset, his mentality, the leadership that he carries with them, the other guys see that. It's a long week of 54 holes. He could be the GLIAC champ for us. I don't put that past him."
Ashland's lineup has been unchanging since early in the fall, and features senior Chandler Walnsch (77.0 spring average), junior Cole Smith (77.75), sophomore Patrick Steffen (76.5) and freshman Ben Jones (76.75).
"The talent's there, across the board," said Cooke. "I even can go into saying I have six, seven, eight guys who all can play. That's great for me to know that. My top five has been playing solid. They all know their jobs.
"They're putting themselves in a position to finish well."