In maybe the most solitary sport there is, University of Akron golfer Charlie Bull attributes his success to his Zips teammates.
Bull, a junior who hails from London, continues to have the best year since his arrival with the Zips.
He captured his first tournament win at the Kenny Perry Invitational during the fall season, and he’s only finished out of the Top 20 once all season. Additionally he’s in line to score a spot on the first team All-MAC team and is on the verge of breaking the school’s scoring record.
“The team around me is a lot more consistent. We have a consistent lineup,” Bull said during a Tuesday interview in the golf team’s offices at the Stile Athletics Field House. “We have become very close to each other. It’s having a close group of friends together on a trip makes everything so much easier.”
The team has stability in its lineup that includes three freshmen — Louis Birchall, Ryan Harris and Carr Vernon — something that Bull likes. And there is a greater bond with this year’s team.
Coach David Trainor agrees that despite the contradiction, who composes the team and how they interact can make a difference.
“You have to room with another team member,” Trainor said. “You have to eat dinner with the other team member. You have to eat breakfast with the other team member.”
In short: animosity can creep in and affect morale. But as the Zips prepare for this weekend’s MAC Championship in Nashport, it isn’t a problem.
Trainor said Bull has found a sense of balance, and combined with his continued maturation, he has continued to develop. He has learned just as a quarterback has to forget his most recent interception or a pitcher his most recent home run, there are things he has to put behind him when he’s in competition.
“He understands that bad shots do happen, missed putts do happen,” Trainor said. “You accept what the golf course gives you then you move on. He has done a phenomenal job with that.”
For Bull, the difference in his game comes down to several factors.
“Everything to do with my game, my body, my life has been a lot more consistent. I haven’t had problems physically, which has helped me a lot,” he said. “I’m working out the same more unlike last year when I was waking up and my body was in some kind of different pain.”
That, obviously, contributes to his improved play, but it has also given him confidence, which he doesn’t mind talking about leading up to the weekend.
“If I can play like I’ve been playing, maybe get a little bit more heat in the short game, then I think it would be nice to be out there and have a chance,” he said. “If I give myself a chance, I think my game can hold up against any of the other guys in the conference.”
But his thoughts also turn to the team and its overall chances.
“We’re going to have to play the best golf we’ve played in the last two years,” he said. “We have a very strong championship individually and teamwise. I think all of them — quite a few teams and quite a few individuals.”
Indeed, Kent State is the prohibitive favorite (as usual), but there are teams that can make a run, including Ball State, Trainor said.
But he likes the way Bull is thinking.
“That’s why we play the game,” Trainor said. “As we’ve seen this year, a lot of guys have won. Kent State and Ball State are very good. Can we challenge them? I’d like to think so, yes. Are we going to have to play good golf? Yes.”
The key to that for the Zips?
“It doesn’t mean we lead the field in birdies,” he said. “It means we lead the field in not making others or doubles. If we make a mistake we have to take our medicine and get it back in play and minimize the damage. I think that has been our Achilles’ heel top to bottom this year.”
While ultimately the team’s youth might be a challenge, that doesn’t mean they won’t be competitive, especially against Kent State.
“These kids don’t know who Kent State is. They don’t know that [Kent] is supposed to win,” he said.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at https://ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.