Following a tenth-place finish at the Purdue Fall Invite last week, the Cardinals headed to Little Rock, Arkansas, to round out their fall schedule. After three rounds of competition in the 15-team event, Ball State finished in 7th place, led by junior Ali Khan and sophomore Carter Smith.
The Everett Buick GMC Classic showcased a similar story for Ball State that has played out many times throughout the fall season. Like a nova, the Cardinals got hot between the first and second rounds as they quickly improved their collective score before fading out in the final round.
“This week was rough,” Smith said. “We were off to a pretty good start yesterday, especially in that second round, but we have to figure out a way to be better late in rounds.”
Ball State was near the top of the leaderboard before the start of the final round but was outplayed by several teams that began to pull away late.
Carter and Khan led the team in scoring, at 2-under-par and 1-under-par respectively.
“We’ve seen a lot of good things this year,” Smith said. “We’ve been in contention every single week, but if we can figure out how to get three rounds together we can be really good, we can beat anybody.”
Monday - Round One & Two
Khan was the individual leader for Ball State in the competition's opening rounds. The redshirt junior shot 1-under-par in round one and shot 3-under-par through the first 17 holes of the second round before play was halted due to darkness.
Khan’s second-round performance was Ball State’s best individual performance of the competition with his score of 69.
Before the second round was cut short, Ball State landed in fifth place. The placement, however, did not tell the full story for the Cardinals, who were only four strokes out of first place due to the extremely contested field of teams near the top of the leaderboard.
Junior Kash Bellar was the other scoring leader with a combined score of 3-under-par through the first two rounds.
Tuesday - Round Three
Four holes into the final round, seven teams were within 3 strokes of each other at the top of the leaderboard, including Ball State. It was after this point that the Cardinals began to lag behind as others began to pull away.
“I think we were momentarily in the lead there, but really from that point on we didn’t make any birdies,” head coach Mike Fleck said. “Unfortunately, we got hit with what has been our achilles heel all fall.”
Smith led the Cardinals in the final round with his best round of the competition, finishing 2-under-par.
Smith and Khan both finished in the invite’s top 25 individually, but it was the lack of supplementarily good rounds from the rest of the team that held Ball State back.
“It’s hurt us over the last several weeks, not getting four quality scores,” Fleck said. “We had two good rounds today, but we had two scores that didn’t keep pace.”
The Cardinals' Little Rock trip will be their last of the fall season before play resumes in the spring for the MAC (Mid-American Conference) A-10 Challenge.
“This is the time of year that you hit the reset button,” Fleck said. “Our schedule in the spring is gonna be super challenging, but I still think we have one of the best teams if not the best team in the league.”
Contact Nick Shelton with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @NickS9954.