Last week’s Big Sky Golfer of the Week, Jared du Toit, and the Idaho men’s golf team will compete in the Itani Classic Monday and Tuesday at Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman. Washington State will host the classic, but Idaho is comfortable with the golf course as it practices there regularly.
“This is probably the most fun one (event) of the year, just because you know the course really well,” du Toit said. “We do get a little bit of support out here.”
Idaho coach John Means said that home course advantage is present in golf. He said playing on a home course shaves six shots off each round that usually come from tighter green play.
“I mean a 150-yard shot is a 150-yard shot,” Means said. “But when you have shots from the green where certain pins are, if you’ve seen them before several times in the course of your playing and practicing out here, you know how to hit the shot. You know how it breaks and it gives you an advantage.”
Idaho took third out of 14 schools at the Doc Gimmler Sept. 11 to 13 in Farmingdale, New York, which was the Vandals’ first tournament of the season.
Du Toit led the Vandals with a three-round, 5-under-par fifth place tie. His performance earned him Big Sky Golfer of the Week along with Weber State’s Devon Purser.
Du Toit, who was also named WAC Freshman of the Year last season, has continued to work on his game in the offseason and early this season.
“I’ve always been working on my putting,” du Toit said. “I’ve switched a couple things up. I’ve been trying to get better in that aspect and I think I have.”
Idaho returns everyone from last season’s team, except for Alex Pounds, who is now the assistant coach this season for Idaho.
“Right now, this year, we’ve got about seven or eight deep so we’re not sure each week who’s going to be playing in the lineup,” Means said. “There’s a competition among the guys, which is good.”
He said when a team only has four or five good players and the rest of the players aren’t close to that talent level, then there’s no reason for those starters to work hard. In other words, the starters aren’t challenged by their other teammates and they don’t feel as much pressure to improve. Their starting spots are guaranteed because nobody else on the team is good enough to take them.
That’s not the case at Idaho this season. Means said the five starters last season — du Toit, Aaron Cockerill, Rylee Iacolucci, Sean McMullen and Ryan Porch — can all compete for the No. 1 spot after the summers they’ve had.
Means said practices have been very good as well.
“Our practices have been phenomenal,” Means said. “As a matter of fact, I was nervous today because our practice yesterday was so good. That’s the kind of practice you want the day before, and it was so good. They were just so focused on what they were doing.”
Means said he hasn’t been given the final lineup of teams that are going to compete at the Itani Classic yet, but thinks nine of the Pac-12 schools will be there. He said it’s a Pac-12 preview and that the Pac-12 Championships will be held at Palouse Ridge in the spring. He thinks Boise State might compete as well.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org