Creature of habit
The NCAA individual champion, Tim Crouch, likes routine
ALLENDALE, Mich. -- A waffle slathered in peanut butter and syrup: breakfast of a champion.
Florida Southern senior Tim Crouch, who begins every day of competition the same way, with a big breakfast, preferably a waffle covered with peanut butter and syrup, won the NCAA II individual national golf championship Wednesday at The Meadows, on the campus of Grand Valley State. It is the second consecutive individual national championship for Crouch, who fired a 3-under 68 in Wednesday's third round to finish with an even-par 74-71-68-213, one stroke ahead of No. 1-ranked Adam Svennson of Barry and two strokes ahead of Nova Southeastern's Santiago Gomez, who shot a 2-over 73 Wednesday.
“[Wednesday] was a lot of mental focus,” Crouch said. “I knew it wasn't going to be easy so I went out and just played my game. If I got in trouble, I got it back in play and relied on my wedge game and my putting. [Wednesday] it came through for me.”
Crouch, a physical education major who said he plans to turn pro after graduating in December, was one of eight individual qualifiers in the field of 108 players. “It doesn't matter to me,” Crouch said of not having his Moccasins teammates nearby. “I look at every tournament as a normal tournament. It doesn't matter if it's the national championships or one of our tournaments in the fall or spring. A tournament is a tournament and that's how I treat it. I go through the same routine the whole time."
In addition to a big breakfast on competition days, Crouch's routine also includes precisely 70 minutes of preparation. “I give myself an hour and 10 minutes of warm-up time every day,” he said. “I always putt first, then hit balls, maybe putt a few after, and then sit down in a cart and relax, the last 10 minutes before I tee off. I putt first because I like to be fresh when I'm on the first teem” he added. “I don't want to hit balls and then take a half hour off before I get to the first tee.”
The decisive birdie that gave Crouch the national championship came on No. 17, a 192-yard par-3. “I felt a big rush after I made that putt,” he said. “I knew it was a big putt and I wanted to make sure I got it to the hole. I put a good stroke on it and Coach [Doug Gordin] came up there with me to put me in a good mindset.”
Crouch's final round featured four birdies and a bogey. In addition to his birdie on No. 17, he had eight pars on the back nine. He got up and down from a bunker to save par on No. 12, he drained a six-foot par putt on 13 and after hitting his tee shot “way left in the high rough” on the par-4 15th hole, he had to make a 20-footer for par.
“I'm a good ball striker,” he said. “I hit a lot of fairways and greens so I give myself a lot of opportunities for birdies. That's may game plan, no matter what course I'm playing. If I give myself lots of chances for birdies, I'll make a few.”
According to Gordin though, Crouch's ball striking was not its best Wednesday. “It was not his best ball-striking round,” Gordin said. “It was a gutsy round because he missed five or six greens and shot 68. That's one of the best rounds I've ever seen him play in terms of how he handled himself.”
Crouch said the regional championship tournament two weeks ago may have better prepared him for Wednesday's round than did winning last year's championship. “I was playing too tentatively, so if I was going to lose [the regional title], I told myself I'm going to go out swinging away, being aggressive and playing my game,” Crouch said. “I shot 32 on the back nine to win by one.
“I came out [Wednesday] with the right mindset and was aggressive, stuck to my game plan and did that the whole day.”