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Miami golf concludes an impressive 2024 season as MAC runner-ups

First-year Morgan Blythe shot a 215 at the MAC championship to contribute to Miami’s second-place finish and win MAC Freshman of the Year
First-year Morgan Blythe shot a 215 at the MAC championship to contribute to Miami’s second-place finish and win MAC Freshman of the Year

The Miami University RedHawks golf team concluded the 2024 season as the runner-ups in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship on April 28. 

The RedHawks ended day one tied for first with the Ball State University Cardinals at 283 strokes. Day two saw them fall behind by three strokes but maintain a four stroke advantage over the third-place Northern Illinois University Huskies. Miami concluded the championship down five strokes from the first place Falcons but still in second place. 

Under head coach JD Fletcher, the RedHawks finished fifth in 2023 and tied for fifth in 2022. The 2019 Miami graduate stepped into the coaching position in 2020, and the team continues to improve every year of his tenure. The second-place finish this year ranked the best finish since 2015, when the RedHawks won the tournament by eight strokes. 

“[We’re] really excited for where the program’s headed,” Fletcher said. “I feel like I’ve been able to turn this thing around really quickly, being in my third season here.”

The season started in September with the Island Resort Intercollegiate in Michigan, where Miami placed fourth out of 10 teams. Senior captain Danny Fisher led the RedHawks with a score of 207 to place fifth individually. 

Throughout the fall, Miami traveled across the country for several invitationals, ending in  Hawaii for the Kapolei Invitational in November, where the team placed 13th. The team started again in February starting with the Border Olympics in Laredo, Texas, where the players placed 11th.

The RedHawks travel far and wide for the entire year, but they have maintained excellent academic standing. In his career at Miami, Fisher noticed that the golf team can stay on top of their academics despite the constant traveling. 

“I think every year I’ve been here, we’ve been at the top of the male ranks,” Fisher said. “I don’t know what that speaks to. Maybe golf is a sport where you’re pretty focused, and that translates in other areas of your life. I’ve been impressed with the guys coming in and how they get the work done.”

For first-year Morgan Blythe, the transition into college as a whole was difficult. The United Kingdom native and MAC Freshman of the Year didn’t visit Miami until after he committed, but the recruitment process aligned with American athletes’ process. 

“The coach, the schedule and what I’m getting out of this experience were the three things that I was really looking for,” Blythe said. “Those three things here just really matched up, and it was more than perfect. There was nothing that was wrong with it, and everything was right with it.”

Traveling across the country not only provides lifelong memories, but it gives golfers the opportunity to play on a variety of courses and in different climates. When Fletcher designs the schedule, he loads the first half with invitationals against the top schools in the country and takes the golfers to places they wouldn’t play otherwise.

Miami proves itself as a contender in these invitationals. At the Calusa Cup in Naples, Florida, the RedHawks placed sixth to beat the University of Iowa Hawkeyes and the University of Nebraska Huskers, two Power Five programs. At the Boilermakers Invitational, they were within four shots of the University of Illinois, which is currently ranked 18th in the nation by Scoreboard. 

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These events give the RedHawks a chance to compete against the top-ranked programs in the country, but it also prepares them for conference play and the MAC tournament in the spring.

“If you look at our schedule, we played a ton of team events,” Fletcher said. “The guys that weren’t playing, we found individual events for them. Anytime you get a scorecard in your hand, anytime you can play under the gun, I think that’s huge.”

Golf is an individual sport, with players’ performance relying entirely on themselves. As a result, golfers tend to stray away from the team aspect and focus on their own goals. At Miami, however, the players still maintain a team culture and push each other to greater lengths. 

As captain, Fisher brings the energy to early morning workouts and turns road bumps into bonding opportunities. 

“I try to make everyone feel like they’re part of something special, because they are,” Fisher said. “It’s been so fun to be that sort of leader.”

The team had an average fall performance, finishing in the top five at two out of six invitationals. In the early spring, the RedHawks started out rough at the Border Olympics but turned things around with a second-place finish at the Ross Collegiate Classic and at the Calusa Cup, which proved to have a major impact on their late-season results. 

“[Ross] was the one where the team realized the teams that are ranked similar to us, we can beat them playing normally,” Blythe said. “At Calusa, we’re playing against some of the top teams in the country, teams that four years ago would have absolutely smoked us, and we had almost all of them until the last hour.”

With a season full of nationwide travels and a runner-up finish in the conference, the RedHawks’ best memories actually didn’t take place on the course.

“I remember there was live music at a dinner we had in Hawaii, and all of us singing,” Fisher said. “That will live in my head forever. I think it speaks to our team [that] a lot of these moments that will stick out aren’t necessarily on the course.”

The Miami golf team graduates four seniors this year. Two of the seniors, Fisher and Egor Zotov, will begin their professional golf careers at the Clovernook Open in Cincinnati on May 6. Next year’s roster will return eight players and bring in three new golfers. 

Fisher played with Fletcher for his entire collegiate career, with Fletcher even accompanying him on the U.S. Amateur Championship last year. For both, walking the final hole at the MAC championship was a bittersweet moment that capped an incredible career at Miami. 

Going forward, Fletcher and the RedHawks know that they will only get better from here. The guys that are here and the ones that arrive share the desire for the nerves and pressure the course gives them. For Blythe, a MAC championship victory is imminent. 

“I think we’ve got everything in the world to be excited about right now,” Blythe said. “I’m looking forward to having success with this team and being in the fight for success.”