Considering his past two years, Michael Unger didn’t mind waiting a bit to tee off Saturday.
Rain pushed back tee times 15 minutes at the Lake of the Woods Golf Course during the Francis Hagan Match Play Championship, but that was nothing compared with Unger’s recent struggles to get back to playing.
Unger, 20, will be a junior at Missouri and plays for the Tigers’ golf team. Although he shot a 4-over-par 75 in the qualifying round, his health and golf history haven’t always been good.
His freshman year, Unger, of Denver, redshirted after he contracted mononucleosis.
In August, Unger had emergency seven-hour surgery to repair his stomach and spent the next couple of months in bed. Unger missed the fall semester.
Despite not being able to play much in the past year, Unger said his strength is back to where it should be.
“It’s all about confidence for me right now because I haven’t been competing as much as I used to, and when you don’t play a lot of tournaments it is easy to second-guess your swing, but today really helped my confidence because I didn’t do the things I had been doing poorly in the past,” Unger said.
He had no specific goal coming into the tournament but to work on his game.
“I wasn’t worrying about if I made it or if I won it, I just wanted to go out and hit some good shots,” Unger said.
Unger said he didn’t score as well as he wanted to, but he hit the ball well.
A field of 114 played 18 holes of stroke play with the top 64 qualifying for the match-play bracket today. The tournament finishes June 20.
Former champion Joe Bellmer had a strong day. With a 35 on the front and back nine, Bellmer will be the third seed.
Bellmer’s putting game got him rolling with birdies on the first two holes. He had 26 putts.
Brad Daugherty was the low qualifier, shooting a 66, and David Teel took second, shooting a 69.
Nick Wilson, at 14 the youngest player in the tournament, shot a 77 and is tied for 20th with six other qualifiers.
Former champions Tim Rooney (78) and David McDonald (77) also qualified.
McDonald said he has struggled hitting the ball but prefers not to dwell on his frustrations.
“It is better to stay in the moment,” McDonald said. “Be patient when you need to be and be aggressive when you have the opportunity. Stay in the moment.”