Golf Team Walk-on Goes for the Win

At the 18th hole of the West Coast Conference golf championships in April, Saint Mary’s junior walk-on Ben Geyer finally had a shot at his first win in a college tournament. With the ball on the back right fringe, 20 feet from the hole, Geyer had to sink the putt to earn the victory.  Still, his initial reaction was to defer his own success for the sake of his team’s — a reaction that says a lot about Geyer’s character.  He consulted his coach, Scott Hardy. “I asked him what he wanted me to do: Did he want me to go at it? Or, team-wise, did he want me to hit a little left of the flag and make it an easy par?” Geyer recalls. Hardy told him to go for the win, and Geyer delivered.

“When it fell, I was pretty stoked about it,” he said somewhat matter-of-factly.  His top finish, along with strong performances from the rest of the team, helped secure the SMC golf program’s first WCC title and an invitation to the NCAA Division 1 regional tournament.  And Geyer, who wasn’t even a scholarship player but earned his place on the team as a walk-on, became only the fourth Saint Mary’s player ever to win medalist honors and the first since 2005.  Hardy, who was a walk-on himself in 1994, has had his eye on the team title since his days as a college player.

“It was super clutch,” said Hardy, who was named WCC Coach of the Year. “You know, golf is an individual sport. This is the only time that you are really on a team. But he really is.” All the team members have the same goal, he said: “To make it to nationals.”

While Geyer has had an incredible season — finishing in the top 20 in 11 tournaments and recording a 72.5 average — he has come a long way since his freshman year.  In high school, he was more of a basketball player than a golfer, and at 6’0” he looks like one. He decided to seriously pursue golf a little late, so he didn’t catch the eye of Division I recruiters. Despite scholarship offers at less competitive schools, he was determined to play for a Division I team. He chose Saint Mary’s because of Hardy’s reputation as a top amateur and his talent for developing players, along with the campus environment.

In his first year, though, Geyer only played in three tournaments and had a 76.9 stroke average.  “I probably came in a little too confident in myself,” he said. “Once I was here … I realized that it wasn’t going to be that easy, and that definitely kept me humble.”

It was training with a team that helped Geyer develop his game. “I think it has a lot to do with being surrounded by talent,” he said. “I spent my freshman year learning from the people who were older than me. When you see how they practice and when you repeat that, it is going to make you much better.”

With his first collegiate win under his belt, Geyer is looking forward to a strong senior season and has even set his sights on a professional golf career after graduation.

“I know it’s not easy,” he said, “but I am definitely going to give it a shot.”