Hunter Eichhorn and his Marquette men's golf teammates had one goal Tuesday during the final round of the Badger Invitational at University Ridge GC in Madison: Finish strong.
Eichhorn just took his part in that quest to the extreme.
The Golden Eagles sophomore overcame a sluggish start and played his final seven holes in 7-under-par to salvage a 4-under 68 and finish tied for third at 8-under 208, five shots behind winner Joey Vrzich of Nevada. His rally helped Marquette shoot 7-under 281, the low round of the day, and finish fifth at 3-over 867, 12 shots behind first-place Illinois State (283-855).
The host University of Wisconsin shot 298 and finished 10th at 31-over 895. Senior Jordan Hahn shot a final-round 74 to finish tied for 11th at 216.
"Our goal was to have the lowest team score (Tuesday)," Eichhorn wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.Golf. "And we accomplished that, so it was a solid finish to bring us into this upcoming weekend."
O.J. Farrell matched Eichhorn with a 68 and surged up the leaderboard to finish 10th at 1-under 215 for the Golden Eagles, who will defend their title this weekend at the Northern Intercollegiate at Rich Harvest Farms GC in Long Grove, Illinois. A year ago, they set school records with their 32-under 832 winning total and finished 13 strokes ahead of Virginia.
Marquette started to look more like that team in the final round at University Ridge.
The Golden Eagles also counted an even-par 72 from junior Nate Thomson, a transfer from Belmont who tied for 38th, and a 1-over 73 from Matt Murlick, who tied for 46th. They threw out a 75 from freshman Tyler Leach, who tied for 38th in his collegiate debut.
Senior Charlie Maleki followed up a pair of 73s with a closing 74 and finished tied for 23rd at 220 while senior Austin Kendziorski matched Thomson's 38th place showing despite a final-round 79. Coach Steve Bailey could have some line-up decisions for the Northern Intercollegiate, but he was just happy to see his Golden Eagles trimmed 11 shots off its second-round 292.
"(Going) 13-under on the par-5s (Tuesday) was a big reason," Bailey wrote in a text to Wisconsin.Golf. "I can't say enough about Hunter's ability to compete. (He was) 3-over through four and the kid just keeps battling."
After starting on No. 5 in the shotgun start and playing his first four holes in 3-over, Eichhorn turned it around on the back nine. He made birdies at Nos. 11, 12 and 15 before he made a 40-foot putt for eagle on No. 16 to get to 2-under.
"On the back, I just kind of locked in because I knew that if I made some good swings, birdies were out there," said Eichhorn, who made three straight pars turning back to the front where he knocked in a 30-foot putt for eagle on No. 2 to get to 4-under. "I felt really good about my finish, especially after the start I had."
Despite Hahn's top-15 finish, the host Badgers had mixed emotions about the way they struggled on their home course.
Sophomore Griffin Barela's 76-69-78 week was symptomatic of the inconsistency that plagued UW in its opener. Sophomore Sam Anderson, who opened 81-78, led the way Tuesday with a closing 72 while the Badgers also counted Hahn's 74, another 74 from senior Brett Robinson and Barela's 78, tossing a from junior Pete Kuhl.
"The expectations and the thoughts on what these guys can achieve hasn't changed," UW coach Michael Burcin said after watching his team count seven double-bogeys and three triple-bogeys on its home course over 54 holes. "This is just one week, this deal goes to June, everything is still out there for us."