Freshman Griffin Barela helping to lead a young UW men's golf team into postseason play
Griffin Barela has quickly proven himself to be an irregular freshman for the Wisconsin men’s golf team. Reliably scoring for the Badgers in 88 percent of their rounds, Barela recently put it all together at the D.A. Weibring Invitational (hosted by Illinois State) where he held on for a final round 74 in biting 26 degree weather — good enough for the first individual Badgers win since 2009. All the while, Barela maintains the second-lowest scoring average on the team, 73.92, behind only junior Jordan Hahn.
However, unlike some freshman standouts, Barela doesn’t look the part of a player immediately ready to challenge the best in the college game. Admittedly a shorter hitter, Barela has adjusted to courses set up much longer than he had grown used to in high school. Nonetheless, Barela has relied on solid ball striking to compensate for his disadvantages off the tee.
“When I’m playing well, my iron game is really good,” Barela said. “Even if I’m a little farther back, I can still get myself a lot of good birdie looks.”
With longer courses and windy spring conditions, Barela has taken a more controlled approach to the game this year. He credits head coach, Michael Burcin, for this adjustment.
“In junior golf, you can get away with being aggressive everywhere, but you can’t do that in college golf, so you have to hit toward the center of the greens,” Barela said. “That’s the biggest adjustment he’s had me make.”
Barela also noted that Burcin’s coaching style in tournament has helped him adjust. In a sport where a fluctuating attitude can spoil any round in a hurry, Burcin works to guarantee his players are focusing on their targets and maintaining a positive attitude. Barela considers Burcin a light-hearted presence on the course, a positive quality that reflects on his players in what can be stressful tournament play.
With postseason play approaching, Barela’s game is rounding into form at exactly the right time. His confidence is amplified since his individual win. Furthermore, Barela has proven his ability to put the ball in play from the tee, and his putting has improved significantly this spring.
Perhaps Barela’s win is just a sign of things to come for this UW men’s golf team, which hasn’t finished inside the top-five in conference since 2007. With fellow freshman, Sam Anderson, expected to compete in the Big Ten Conference Championships as well, the Badgers’ young team has the chance to graduate more accomplished than its predecessors.
“If we play well in the rest of our tournaments and we give ourselves a chance to win Big Tens, I think we’ll put ourselves in the mix to go to regionals which was one of our goals at the beginning of the year,” Barela said.
UW travels to Baltimore April 27-29 where it will play Baltimore Country Club in the Big Ten Championships. The Badgers haven’t finished inside the top-five since 2007, but after an undefeated third-place finish in the Big Ten Match Play event, expectations are high for this team.
“I’d really like for us to make it through regionals into the NCAA Championship,” Barela said. “If we continue on this trajectory I think we’ll have a chance to do that.”Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter