On the 18 hole of the Dubsdread course, there is a water hazard and pin that are both positioned on the left side of the green. From 135 yards, Junior Garrett Willis stopped the ball within two feet of the hole, chipping it in for a birdie. He left after to go turn in and sign his scorecard at the clubhouse.
After turning the scorecard in, head coach David Gring put his arm around him, explaining how the recently passed assistant coach Tom Brankin would have been proud of how he performed at the tournament.
Valpo’s win at the 13 team Flyer Intercollegiate tournament was not just for Willis or for his team, but one for the former assistant as well. The Coghill Golf and Country Club fourth course, titled “Dubsdread,” was Brankin’s favorite course to play on.
“The circumstances with the virus and especially with the passing this past month made winning this week that much more special for all of us, and I think that will be something that none of us will forget for a while,” Willis said.
This tournament was Willis’s second medalist distinction. His first was in the Zach Johnson Invitational last year. The last time any Valpo collegiate golfer held any consecutive titles was back in 2017. Willis now holds consecutive titles in consecutive seasons. Willis also was named the MVC Performer of the Week for his outing at the Dubsdread course.
Before playing, Willis had his work cut out for him for this tournament. A week prior, he played a qualifying round at Purdue. After not performing as well as he hoped, Willis went back to work on the course and practiced.
As he walked into the tournament, his performance during practice signaled the “green light” to play confidently. He strided big on his first day, carding 72 and 71.
“When I feel confident where the ball is going, then it's kind of a green light for me to go out and play golf that I know that I can play,” Willis said.
He did not take his foot off the gas. On the second day, he topped the competition, carding 72, 71 and 72 again.
“I figured that if I had another solid day and kept myself at around even par or the one under mark, I would definitely have a chance to win,” Willis said.
Willis faced specific difficulties on the Dubsdread course but was able to overcome them. On the first round of the first day, he bogeyed on both the 13th and 14th holes. However, he was able to make par on those holes in the second round of the first day.
On the second day of playing, there was a point of realization for Willis. The lead he built was good enough. While reading the green on the 11th hole, Garrett was able to chip in a 20 footer for birdie. As his score shifted to one under overall, Willis talked to Gring, realizing that all he had to do was not play as aggressively.
“At that point, all I needed to do to win this golf tournament in the highest likelihood was play my last seven holes even par. I was really able to adjust my strategy on 12 through 18, and play a lot of smart shots, not chasing any tucked pins, and take any high numbers out of play or take any bogeys out of play,” Willis said.
Willis and the men’s golf team will be looking forward to the dual match against Drake on Oct. 15. However, they will be cherishing this special win, one that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
“We knew Dubsdread was one of Brankin’s favorite courses to go play, so having our three-day event in the fall there was pretty special,” said Willis.