MEXICO — The best way to get better at a sport is simple, yet true: practice in the environments that you’ll play it in.

Practicing golf in a chilly, blustery mid-Missouri winter? It’s safe to say pulling that off is a little more difficult to do than other sports. And it has hurt the routines of the Mexico boys golf team.

The first day of spring on Wednesday brought colder temperatures and whipping wind gusts as afternoon descended to evening at the Mexico Country Club, which Bulldogs head coach Dwight Loyd said was a big reason his team struggled to third place of three qualifying teams during its home quad meet.

Mexico’s top five golfers combined to score 215, well off of the pace of runner-up Centralia (190) and first-place Hannibal (177). Louisiana also competed in the match, but did not have the minimum five golfers competing to qualify for a team score.

“Today was really a rough day for some of the guys,” Loyd said. “I think that the wind really played a factor today. The wind picked up and it got much colder as the meet went along.”

Indeed it was a windy day on the links in Mexico as wind gusts occasionally measured over 20 miles per hour, according to data from Weather Underground.

Add that to the fact that Mexico has often had to retreat inside for early-season practices due to adverse weather conditions, and Loyd thinks that his team isn’t getting the time on the course that it really needs.

“Not getting outside consistently enough has really been hurting us,” Loyd said. “Having to switch to different terrains off and on hurts us.”

But one Bulldog golfer who did shine Wednesday was junior Gage Gilmore, who shot a 49 in tricky conditions to lead Mexico. Loyd said that Gilmore has averaged “around the 50 mark” in early-season practices and matches and that his consistency helps maintain team stability.

After graduating a consistent point-scorer from last season in Tyler Spargo, Loyd is looking for just that. Gilmore and seniors Chris Dubbert and Mason Carver — who shot a 52 and 53, respectively, Wednesday — are all battling for the right to be Mexico’s No. 1 golfer going forward.

It’s a competitive setup that Loyd hopes will get the best out of his team’s talented trio.

“It would be nice to have a No. 1 golfer set up right now, but the three guys that we’ve got now really push each other hard and compete,” Loyd said. “I think that it helps us out more than anything.”