Oct 18, 2012
By John Lock
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki men's golfer Brandon Cauldwell doesn't get worked up often. It takes something big to really get to him, like when he couldn't control the ball off his driver during the back nine of the 2011-12 season.
"That was as frustrated as I've been in a long while," Cauldwell said.
The senior Saluki had always been Mr. Consistent. In the opening half of that year, Cauldwell recorded top-10 finishes at four of the five tournaments. In the first tournament of the spring, he placed 67th. He didn't compete in two spring tournaments and withdrew from another.
Then he discovered his problem. After playing every day for 18 months, Cauldwell's driver had a tiny crack almost too small to see. His club face was worn down, and he switched to a new driver.
Suddenly, Cauldwell led the team at the MVC Championships. On his summer circuit, he played in the Missouri State Amatuer, losing to the eventual champion in extra holes. He went to the Maumelle Classic and posted a top-five finish, with golfers from SEC and Big 12 schools in the field. The week before the 2012 fall semester started, Cauldwell won the Walker's Bluff Amateur and set a single-round tournament record with a 64.
Back competing with the Salukis, Cauldwell has picked up where he left off this summer. He won the Purdue/Midwest Shootout by seven strokes. He was the only golfer in the 56-player field under par, and he was six strokes under par after the two rounds. In five tournaments so far this spring, Cauldwell has posted three top-three individual finishes.
Mr. Consistent is back.
"Brandon is the hardest worker on the team," head coach Leroy Newton said. "He's always steady. He doesn't let a bad shot affect the next shot, and he doesn't make many mistakes. It doesn't surprise me at all that he's playing this well."
A new driver has Brandon Cauldwell playing his best golf at SIU.
One of Cauldwell's Golfer of the Week nods came after he fired a 67 in the second round at the Skyhawk Fall Classic. Cauldwell is the only golfer in school history to hit that mark three times in his career. He shot a 66 as a junior, the third best score ever at SIU.
And he does it calmly.
"I don't get too excited or too mad most of the time," he said. "You can't look three or four holes ahead or three or four holes behind. You just have to play that single hole in front of you one shot at a time."
So when assessing the Saluki men's golf season, Newton doesn't even mention Cauldwell. Newton knows Cauldwell will be near the top, quietly and consistently hitting good strokes. The question is whether the rest of the team will find that same consistency.
The team has potential. Jake Erickson posted one of the lowest single-season scoring averages in school history last year, including first-place finishes at the Skyhawk Fall Classic and Grover Page Classic. Newcomers Caleb Harms and Drew Novara have been solid contributors. Seniors Jeffrey Miller and Joe Goelzhauser are finishing up solid careers at SIU.
"We've played well in the regular-season tournaments, but we didn't finish well last year at the conference tournament," Newton said. "We have the players to finish near the top this year."
Newton can count on Cauldwell. His new driver is a long ways from wearing out.