BIG EAST Men's Golf Championship Preview|
April 14, 2011
By Jeff Gentil
Beginning Sunday, the men's golf team tees off in the BIG EAST Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida. The Bearcat men will be competing against 11 other squads as Pittsburgh, Providence, Syracuse, and West Virginia do not sponsor varsity men's golf.
Looking to improve upon last year's eighth place finish, Coach Doug Martin takes an optimistic but guarded approach toward his team's chances.
"I've obviously got levels of concern," he admitted. "Our short game - chipping and putting - are concerns. At the UK Invitational, all five of our guys played together so I could watch them all at the same time. We got "up and down" just 36 percent of the time. Our goal is 65 percent."
Naturally, being a program in the Midwest with cold winters hinders golfers from being able to practice their game outside and on actual courses. Unfortunately, that is not going to change anytime soon, so this will continue to be a problem.
"The weather hurts us, no doubt," Martin said. "(Short game) is such an important part of the game. You can't simulate a green in our golf room. We can putt, but there is no grass and no breaks in the green like you get outside. But, we've been working on it a lot (when we get a chance to play outside) before we go to the tournament."
Youth will also come into play this weekend. The Bearcats are expected to have the youngest team in the field with one senior, three sophomores, and one freshman.
"(Senior) Joe Kastelic, this is his last go round," Martin said. "We had a long talk (recently). His short game is not what he wanted. He just needs to go play, not put any added pressure on himself, and let the chips fall where they may.
"(Sophomore) Zach Bates has struggled this year. He's very emotional. He's a fighter, but his competitiveness is getting in his way. He is unstable on the course and beats himself up. (Sophomore) David Tepe has had the best spring of anyone. He's seen good things happen all over and been very consistent. I'd like to see a little more hunger out of him to raise his standards. (Sophomore) Andrew Desmarais has done some good things and made good progress (this season).
"(Freshman) Spencer Mellon sometimes has the deer-in-the-headlights look, but he has done well in stretches. He just hasn't put it all together yet."
One thing Martin knows is that his team will not back down from any team. Since he became the men's coach at UC, Martin has made a conscious effort to toughen up the schedule to allow his team to see the best of the best.
"I think I have upgraded the schedule significantly," Martin said. "You see our results as ninth, 13th, and 11th for every tournament. That's due to the toughness of our schedule. I have tried to schedule where our kids have to rise to the level of their competition. I think we've put them in a position to enjoy themselves playing against good players and I think we have raised our game. I'm pleased where we are. Our kids are not going to be afraid."
Looking at the main competition for this weekend, Martin says Notre Dame is the top squad to watch.
"Notre Dame is the clear cut favorite. No one else is close. It would be an upset if they didn't win," he said. "Louisville, then St. John's, then put everyone else in a pan and scramble. Anything can happen."
Just like last year, anything can happen.
"Georgetown had the week of their life last year when they won the BIG EAST," Martin said. "We had seen them twice before the tournament and beat them by 40 one time and 20 another. So you never know. That's why you play the tournament."
Heading into their last week together, Martin knows he has a team with enough talent to make a run.
"We are capable of competing," he said. "Other than our short game, I am optimistic about our chances. The goal every year is to win the BIG EAST. You have to shoot for the top of the ladder. And we have talented people who can play."