MARSHALL – Playing the high-percentage shots and aiming for pars. Some would call it low-risk golf, but Iowa Lakes Community College men’s golf coach Andy Soper calls it “boring golf.”
Soper coaches a pair of former Marshall Tiger golfers Matt Bennett and Jacob Baker at ILCC in Estherville, Iowa.
It’s something that Bennett has worked on early in his college career.
“Over the past year, I’ve really worked on the mental side,” Bennett said. “I’ve worked hard to play much smarter and play what my coach and I like to call ‘boring golf.'”
Boring or not, it worked for Bennett on March 22. Golfing at the Northeast Community College Spring Tournament in Norfolk, Nebraska, Matt Bennett carded a 6-under par 66 for a course and school record.
He knew he was closing in on the record while he was on the course.
“I had looked at the record books a few times before, so, once I got to -7 through 13 holes, I knew I was on a great pace to break the school record,” Bennett said. “I stumbled a bit down the stretch, going +1 on my last five holes. I knew I was playing well. The first day of the tournament, I shot 71 and felt like I left a lot of shots out on the course.”
“He was hitting it great,” Soper added. “He had the driver working, which led to a lot of wedge shots and then he rolled in a lot of putts. I think he said he had 22 putts in that 18 holes.”
Bennett won the tournament by 11 shots.
Fourteen shots back of Bennett was Baker, who carded a 73 in the final round to finish 7-over par and in a tie for fifth place. The 1-over 73 was also tied for the third-best round of the day.
Like Bennett, wedges and putts are a key for Baker. He has seen growth in those areas, but isn’t satisfied.
“I would say my biggest improvement is in my short game,” Baker said. “I’ve been better around the greens this spring and my putting has been really good. I still need to work on that part of my game, though.”
Both Bennett and Baker have made the jump to the college game smoothly. This was aided by the number of 18-hole tournaments they played in high school, according to Soper.
He sees a lot of potential in the Marshall duo.
“For both Matt and Jacob, I want to continue to see them get better each day,” Soper said. “From eliminating the big number to practicing that much harder each day, always get better. They have the games to be the tops in the nation.”
The two of them share a bond that dates back to high school, as both were members of the Marshall golf team. Bennett was a year ahead of Baker in school, graduating from Marshall High School in 2014. Bennett started his college career at North Dakota State, but contacted coach Soper during the fall semester about transferring to Iowa Lakes. Baker committed to ILCC out of high school.
“It’s fun to share the course with Matt again in college as I did in high school,” Baker said. “It’s good to have someone that I know really well on the same team as me.”
The familiarity is a feeling of comfort for Bennett, as well.
“It’s great to be playing with Jacob again in college,” Bennett said. “It’s nice being able to be roommates with a good friend from home and we didn’t have to go through the uncomfortable stage. We were already really comfortable with each other and it’s nice having a friend who is there to pick you up when you’re down and he’s always there to push me to become better.”