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Michigan State Men’s Golf: 2020-2021 Season Recap

A number of top-three finishes, two POTW honors, a Byron Nelson finalist, and a trip to NCAA Championships by a senior highlight the season

The Michigan State Men’s Golf team shows off its hardware following the Hoosier Invitational
MSU Athletic Communications

The 2021 season for the Michigan State Spartans’ men golf team started off with three Spartans being named to the 2021 Big Ten Golfers to Watch list. Seniors James Piot and Andrew Walker were both voted to the preseason list along with junior Troy Taylor II.

Michigan State started off the season in early February with the Big Ten Match Play Championship at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida. MSU took third at the event, the Spartans’ fifth top-three showing at the annual event that dates back to 2009. The team followed that performance up with a 12th place finish among a 14-team field at the Kiawah Invitational in Maryland at the Oak Point Golf Club. James Piot led the Spartans in tying for 23rd place.

The annual Spartan Collegiate was held at the Sea Island Resort Plantation Course in St. Simons Island, Georgia on March 8 and 9. A total of 16 teams participated, with Iowa winning it all and MSU finishing in a tie for fifth place. Taylor finished 2-under-par 214 and led MSU with a tied for 12th place finish. Piot tied for 23rd and Walker finished in 30th. Bradley Smithson managed a hole-in-one on day two on the par-3, 110-yard hole seven. He finished tied for 35th place.

Michigan State was next at the Tar Heel Intercollegiate in late March and took third place, marking the third time this season MSU had a top-five finish. Piot took third place at the even, while Walker tied for 10th place and Taylor tied for 17th place. August Meekhof finished 44th. Piot earned Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors thanks to his performance.

The Spartans followed up the third-place performance in North Carolina with a first-place finish at the nine-team Hoosier Collegiate Invitational in Bloomington, Indiana. Michigan State finished seven shots ahead of host Indiana and 12 ahead of third-place Nebraska. Piot also took medalist honors, giving Michigan State a clean sweep of the trophy action.

Piot’s title was his first of the 2021 season and third in his career. Smithson finished tied for seventh place and Walker tied for 15th place to put three Spartans in the top-15. Meekhof tied for 21st place and Taylor tied for 29th place. Piot’s individual title gave him Big Ten Golfer of the Week honors for the second-straight week and fourth time in his career.

Michigan State kept to the Hoosier state for its next invitational, taking seventh place at the Boilermaker Invitational. Piot tied for ninth place. MSU followed up that performance with a third-place finish at the nine-team second annual Git-R-Done Husker Invitational. The Spartans finished seven shots behind co-champs Minnesota and Kansas State. Taylor finished tied for second place and just one shot behind Minnesota’s Angus Flanagan who won it all. Piot took fourth place and Smithson tied for 25th.

Prior to the Big Ten Championships for Men’s Golf, next up after the Husker invite, Andrew Walker was named one of four finalists for the 2021 Bryon Nelson Award by the Golf Coaches Association of America. Candidates for the Nelson Award must be a graduating senior and the selection committee considers equally a nominee’s entire collegiate academic and golf career as well as his character and integrity while in college. McClure Meissner of Southern Methodist University ended up as the 2021 winner.

Michigan State managed to take fourth place the 2021 Big Ten Championships at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana. It marked MSU’s second consecutive top-four finish and fifth time in the past nine tournaments that MSU made it to the final group. Illinois won the 2021 title by one shot over Iowa, while Northwestern took third place at 33-over-par. Piot and Walker finished in the top-20, with Piot tying for sixth place and Walker tying for 20th.

Piot’s sixth-place finish at the Big Ten Conference tournament was the best of his career and earned him first-team All-Big Ten honors. On top of that, he also earned a bid to the NCAA Regionals. Piot was chosen as an individual to play in the Kingston Springs Regional, earning the top overall seed. The regional included 13 teams and 10 individuals.

NCAA Championships

After earning the No. 1 seed overall at the NCAA Kingston Springs Regional, Piot managed to tie for fourth place after finishing 5-under-par 208. He managed to claim the sole individual bid as all those ahead of him were on a qualifying team. The three golfers that finished ahead of Piot included San Diego State’s Puwit Anupansuebsai at 8-under-par 205, Arkansas’ Tyson Reeder at 7-under-par 206, and Vanderbilt’s William Moll at 6-under-par 207. Piot was the first Spartan to play at the NCAA Championships since Michigan State qualified as a team in 2007. The last individual Spartan to play at the NCAA Championships was Eric Jorgensen in 2002.

While he was competing at the NCAA Championships, Piot was also named PING Midwest All-Region Team for the third consecutive year. His 71.04 scoring average he entered the championship with was the lowest single-season scoring average in Spartan program history. Piot was the first Spartan to earn PING All-Region honors for three consecutive years since Ryan Brehm earned four consecutive years from 2005-2008.

Piot finished the opening round of the NCAA Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona 1-under-par 69, good for a tie for 17th place. The entire field consisted of 156 golfers, and Piot was just three shots behind first place after day one. After shooting even on the front nine, Piot managed to hit three birdies on the first five holes of the back nine, but then two bogeys late put him at his final score for the day.

Round two saw Piot finish 3-over-par 143 after shooting 4-over-par 74 on the day’s action. That pushed him back to a tie for 33rd place. While Piot shot poorly on most of the holes, he did manage an eagle on the par-5, 562-yard No. 4. Just six golfers at the national championships had earned an eagle by day two’s conclusion.

Piot’s season ended after the third round following an 8-over-par 78. That brought his total score up to 11-over-par 222 and tied him for 90th place. While Piot was a senior this season, he will be returning next year under the extra year granted for players due to COVID-19.

Following the conclusion of his redshirt senior season at Michigan State, Andrew Walker was one of the headline early invites to the inaugural John Shippen tournament.

In addition to his career at MSU, Walker was a three-time Michigan Mr. Golf, and a two-time state champion in high school. The invitational is set for June 27-28 at Detroit Golf Club. It features eight males and eight females. The top male will get to play in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, set for July 1-4 at Detroit Golf Club. The invitational is named after the country’s first Black club professional.