Young Bulldog Golfers Make Strides in Fall Season
Nov. 10, 2009
RUSTON - At first glance the results from Louisiana Tech's fall golf season might not appear overly impressive although Bulldog coach Jeff Parks' young squad showed numerous signs of marked improvement.
In five fall tournaments, the Bulldogs highest team finish was sixth out of 16 teams at the 2009 Squire Creek Fall Intercollegiate played at LA Tech's home venue - Squire Creek Golf Course in early October.
Tech also finished ninth (twice), 10th and 13th at the other four events. However, when the level of competition at the tournaments is taken into the equation, the Bulldogs recent showing is promising as Tech has a 196-102 record in head-to-head competition.
The results? After starting the fall season ranked 158th in the country, Tech's work over the last three months earned it a Top 100 ranking as the team currently sits 99th this week in the Golfstat.com poll which is used to help determine regional bids.
"Golf results can be a little misleading sometimes," Parks said. "If you finish 6th in a field that includes say 10 Top 100 teams, that's not a bad showing. Obviously we want to win every time we play in a tournament ... that's our No.1 goal. It's all about who you are playing in these tournaments, and we are scheduling tough events. Our guys want to play against the best."
Tech's roster consists of only one senior in Matthew Harvey as Parks has one of the younger teams in the country. Harvey, who was the first Bulldog to ever earn All-WAC accolades when he received the honor in 2008, was one of four Tech players to earn a top 10 finish at one of the fall events this year.
As impressive as that fact is for Tech, the most exciting part of it is that three of the four players who recorded the top 10 finishes this fall are either freshmen or sophomores.
"I think this shows that we have some good young players," Parks said. "It's exciting when you think about the future of the program. We still have plenty of room for improvement, and our guys know this. Our schedule this spring is (tough enough) that if we continue to improve and we can have some good showings, we will continue to move up in the rankings."
Harvey placed 10th out of 90 golfers at the Memphis Intercollegiate, which included a field of 16 teams - six ranked in the top 100 in the country. Sophomore walk-on Joel Thelen recorded the best scoring average of any Bulldog in the fall with a 72.67, which included a pair of top 10 finishes - fifth at the Squire Creek Invitational and sixth at the David Toms Intercollegiate hosted by LSU.
Sophomore Cody Santone started the fall schedule posting three straight Top 10 finishes, placing 10th at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate, 5th at the Waterchase Invitational and 9th at the Squire Creek Intercollegiate. And despite struggling at the final two tournaments of the fall, the Haughton native still recorded a 73.13 scoring average.
Sophomore Jonathan Bale was the fourth Bulldog with a top 10 finish in the fall, placing 8th at the David Toms Intercollegiate in late October.
Five of the 10 players on the Tech roster recorded rounds in the 60's this fall, including a low round of 65 shot by freshman Sam Forgan at the Squire Creek Invitational. And two players who didn't record rounds in the 60s this fall - Harvey and junior Clinton Shepard - own rounds of 64 and 65 during their Bulldog careers.
"I think it shows we have depth," Parks said. "Now we just have to become more consistent. I was pleased with our guys' determination this fall. These guys understand that they have to put forth a lot of effort into learning the game and learning how to play. They are doing everything I ask of them, and it has started to pay off."
The Bulldogs also posted wins over a number of top 100 teams during the fall season, including defeating 27th ranked Northwestern at the David Toms Intercollegiate. Its wins against that caliber of competition that has helped the team move up almost 60 spots in the polls.
This spring the Bulldogs will have a golden opportunity to move up in the rankings even farther as they compete in five tournaments plus the Western Athletic Conference Championships held in Henderson, Nevada in early May.
The fields of those events are loaded with talented teams, including the Reunion Intercollegiate hosted by Ole Miss in early April as 11 of the teams are currently ranked in the Top 100 in the nation, including seven that are ranked in the Top 70. The field is led by 4th ranked Florida and 24th ranked North Florida.
In the five spring tournaments, the fields include a total of 39 teams ranked in the Top 100 and 22 in the top 70.
Parks said the Bulldogs goal is to make it to regionals, which means the team needs to either win the WAC championships or finish in the top 70 in the rankings which he said is usually a pretty good indicator. Tech is currently the fourth highest ranked team in the WAC, behind only 33rd ranked Fresno State, 71st ranked Nevada and 98th ranked New Mexico State.
"Golf rankings fluctuate quite a bit," Parks said. "Typically, if you can make it into the top 70 you have a great shot at making regionals. That's our goal. We want to win the WAC and make it to regionals. It is reachable if we continue to work hard and have a good spring."