Men’s golf finishes fall season, looks forward to spring

By Sam Frost

It has been a trying couple of months for the Macalester men’s golf team, whose last-place finish this past weekend at the MIAC Championship was a fitting ending to a somewhat disappointing season. With shaky performances at the St. John’s Fall Invitational, Frank Wrigglesworth Blue-Gold Invite, and the Augsburg College Fall Invitational, the team saw its season average increase from last year’s 329.3 (a 82.3 per player average) to 335.9 (84.0). Coming into the season with a new coach, the Scots started with excitement and hope, expecting to finish near the middle of the conference. However, due to a somewhat unexpected lack of depth and veteran experience, the team now looks to recover and rebuild from the fall season. The problems for this year’s squad began well before the start of the season, when the team lost two key players after graduating two seniors in the spring, leaving it with only one senior and no juniors. “It went downhill pretty quick,” Dan Shi ’15 said. “Having only five players, four of which are underclassmen, really hurt us experience-wise.” Shi was second on the Scots with a 82.7 per round average this season, recording a career-best 74 during the Mac-Mary Dual on August 31. He was one of three members of the Class of 2015 on the team, a core that represented 60 percent of the entire roster. The program has had a problem fielding enough freshmen to sustain a full roster each year. At the beginning of the 2009-2010 season, there were ten players on the team. Each season since then, the numbers have decreased to eight in 2010-2011, seven in 2011-2012, and five this year. “We have fewer players every year,” leading scorer Tyler Hanck ’13 said. “Recruiting is definitely a factor, because it gives us a smaller pool of players.” To top it all off, Andrew Gage ’15 fell ill midway through the conference championship, reducing the team down to four players for the final round of the season’s most important tournament. Teams start five players in Division III tournaments, with the top four scores counting towards the aggregate score. Losing Gage (the team’s number four golfer) didn’t just reduce the number of scores that could potentially be counted, but also upped up the pressure on the team’s remaining players. “When you have a small team like we had this year, and the minimum number of players at conference, it obviously puts a lot of pressure on each player to play well,” Hanck said. Temporary losses aside, the small roster, if it continues, could be a detriment to the future of the Mac men’s golf program. However, at least in the short term, the players are unworried about their prospects. The boys managed to beat St. Mary’s by 14 strokes at the Mac-Mary Dual (the first meet of the season), giving Mac its fourth consecutive victory in the annual matchup, as well as providing a source of confidence for the youthful team heading into next year. Departing the team after four solid seasons, Hanck was full of praise for the team’s remaining members, particularly its three sophomores, who, owing to the lack of juniors on the squad, will be thrust into a leadership role in 2013. “They’re good team leaders, and they’ve had to mature fast,” he said. The trio is aware of the responsibility they will have to shoulder next year, but believe they are more than up the task. “With no juniors, the sophomores are really going to have to step it up next year,” Gage said. Looking to move on from this fall season, Gage expressed confidence about the team. He hopes that this coming spring season will help them rebound, as the spring is traditionally devoted to practice and improvement. “This season we had a lot of trouble with basic things,” he said. “Things were going wrong that shouldn’t have been going wrong. This spring we need to take a look at our swings and get all the mechanics down so we can compete better next fall.” Gage also acknowledged that the sophomores on the team will need to fill the considerable void left by Hanck, the team’s lone graduating senior. “(Tyler) is a great role model and a great leader,” Gage said. “He’s a model for how we should love the game and play the game.” Although this fall was part of a rebuilding season and the class of 2015 while undoubtedly elevate the team’s performance next year, the program’s issue of small rosters is still worrisome in the long term. If the team is to compete and have success in the MIAC in the future, this problem must be resolved. For now, though, the spotlight is on Gage, Shi, Erik Alfvin ’15 and James Meyerson ’16, upon whose shoulders rest the hopes and dreams for 2013. refresh –>