Hoosiers Return to the Links
Bloomington, Ind.--Class is back in session, Bloomington is buzzing with students, and the men's golf team is ready to hit the links again. After a three-month break from IU, the team begins practice tomorrow in preparation for the Northern Intercollegiate in Ann Arbor, Mich., September 20-21. Following a productive summer, the team is refreshed and ready to begin the season. Here's a look at the 2003-2004 Indiana men's golf team.
The proverbial bar has been raised again. After finishing sixth for the second consecutive season at the Big Ten Championship and placing in the top five in nine tournaments with consecutive second-place finishes, Indiana is looking ahead to bigger and better things. The talent, experience, and depth is there for the Hoosiers to contend for a Big Ten Championship and possibly on an even grander stage.
"This is a very strong team that can go a long, long way," said head coach Mike Mayer. "I think this team can contend for a Big Ten Championship and compete with any team in the country. There is no doubt in my mind this will be the best team I've had in my six seasons as head coach."
Returning to lead the way for IU is junior Jeff Overton. The two-time All-Big Ten selection is a candidate for All-American honors and is ready to take the team to the next level. Helping him along the way will be number two golfer junior Heath Peters. Sophomores Scott Seibert and Brad Marek figure to see plenty of action while the final spot in the lineup remains up for grabs amongst fierce competition.
"The internal competitiveness on our team will help these guys get better," said Mayer. "We are a strong team and are incredibly deep. We are as deep as any team in the country from top-to-bottom."
Preparing for the season, the squad hit the links in many of the top and most prestigious tournaments during the summer. Hoosiers participated in the highly-regarded USGA Public Links, Western Amateur, and Western Junior Championships in addition to the North South Invitational at Pinehurst Country Club.
"Our guys did all the right things this summer," said Mayer. "They played a tremendous amount of nationally competitive golf, more so than any team I've been associated with in my 15 years here at IU."
The Hoosier with the most success over the summer, Overton, is a perfect example of what Mayer is talking about. If Overton's play over the summer is any indication, the junior has a shot to be one of the top golfers in the country. He began his successful summer with a 12-stroke victory at the Indiana State Amateur Championship. His final round 64 set a course record at Otter Greek Golf Course.
Next up, the Evansville, Ind., native netted a runner-up finish at the North South Invitational and followed that performance earning medalist honors at the U.S. Public Links Championship. The junior tied a USGA 36-hole record at 10-under-par winning the title by seven shots. Additionally, he advanced to the quarterfinals in match play at the same tournament, winning three matches before being eliminated.
"Overton is going to lead the team this year," said Mayer. "I feel there is no one in the country that can beat Jeff Overton. He is going to be a leader of this team in a lot of different ways."
Peters is coming off a 2002-03 season where he averaged 74.03 in 37 rounds, captured the Johnny Owens Invitational title, and finished with four top 10 performances. The Garrett, Ind., native enjoyed success this summer finishing as low amateur in the Indiana State Open Championship en route to a seventh-place finish and playing in the Western Amateur. Building on the momentum of these performances, the junior is ready to produce big results this season.
"Heath has as much talent as any one on this golf team," explained Mayer. "If he works hard and applies himself, the sky's the limit for this young man."
Seibert and Marek will also get an opportunity for a spot in the lineup. As freshmen last year, the two showed they were capable of competing at the collegiate level. Both golfers also had success this summer preparing them for the upcoming season. Seibert advanced to the final 32 in match play at the U.S. Public Links while Marek finished 18th at the Western Junior, the premier golf tournament for juniors 19 and younger, and qualified for the Western Amateur.
"Scott had a very good summer," said Mayer. "It's going to be difficult to keep him out of the lineup. He has everything it takes to play at this level."
"We really expect Brad to be an integral part of the team this season. He's a real tough competitor, and it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup as well."
Seniors Ryan Cassidy and Kirk Wood return after productive summers. Cassidy produced a pair of top-10 finishes at the Joliet (Ill.) Amateur (5th) and the North Shore Amateur (9th). According to Mayer, both players have the ability to compete, but need to gain some confidence.
"Ryan is a hard and tireless worker," said Mayer. "He has the ability to play golf and help this program his senior year, but he needs to develop a little more confidence.
"Kirk's another guy who has all the ability in the world. If he applies himself and comes in with a positive attitude, he could be a big benefit to the team."
Junior Rob Ockenfuss looks to return to his 2001-02 form where he played 29 rounds. After playing in five rounds last season, the Parkasie, Pa., native needs to work on his shot selection to get back into the lineup.
"Rob is as impressive ball-striker as you'll see," remarked Mayer. "Once he learns to eliminate the bad shot, he'll be a much better player. He can be a dangerous collegiate player."
Along with Ockenfuss, junior Oren Hodak returns for his second season of eligibility. The Dallas, Texas, native was a redshirt freshman and brings a strong work ethic and plenty of experience to the table.
"Oren's a young man with as much passion about the game of golf as any one I've seen," said Mayer. "Hopefully, he can push some people for a spot."
A pair of redshirts from last season, senior Mike Birkenfeld and sophomore Aaron Walters, will fight for spots in the lineup as well. Both players have the talent to be successful and compete for playing time.
"Mike's a player we're looking forward to watch compete this season," said Mayer. "He had a great summer and will compete for a top spot on the team.
"It will be interesting to see how Aaron responds now that he is eligible to compete. He can be a factor for one of the top spots in the lineup."
Three talented freshmen join the ten returning players. The incoming class continues Mayer's run of impressive recruits that will have a chance to make an immediate impact for the Hoosiers.
Southampton, England's David Butwell leads the newcomers. Butwell was named 2002 Hampshire Schools' Player of the Year in addition to receiving the Vardon Trophy as Hampshire Boys' Golfer of the Year. He will have an opportunity to see action immediately in the fall.
"We believe David's a complete player and will make a huge impact," remarked Mayer. "We expect him to contribute and compete for a top spot immediately."
Tad Sacheck comes to the Hoosiers from Zionsville, Ind., where he was a member of the 2002 Indiana High School Athletic Association State Champion team at Zionsville High School. Mayer believes he has untapped potential that will make him successful.
"We are really high on Tad," said Mayer. "It may take a little time, but Tad will become a really solid collegiate golfer."
The final piece to the team hails from Berekeley, Calif. Andrew Temple rounds out this season's incoming freshmen. He comes to the Hoosiers with a vast amount of experience after traveling all over the country and playing in prestigious tournaments during his high school career.
"Andrew played an impressive amount of top junior golf around the country this summer," said Mayer. "I have a feeling he's really going to surprise some people."
As the team strives to compete at a higher level the level of competition rises and that is what Indiana can expect this season. The Hoosiers will host their own tournament, the first-year Hoosier Invitational. IU plays in three other new tournaments, the Charlotte Invitational, the St. Croix Collegiate Classic, and the Boilermaker Invitational while competing in the UCF/Rio Pinar Intercollegiate and the Steve Kerr Invitational for the first time. Additionally, Indiana returns to play at several of the top tournaments in the Midwest including the Northern Intercollegiate, the Xavier Invitational, the Kepler Intercollegiate, and the Fossum/Taylor Made Invitational. The Hoosiers also return to action at the First Energy Intercollegiate at Firestone Country Club before ending the season at the Big Ten Championship at the University of Michigan.
"I can't wait for this season to begin," explained Mayer. "Our schedule is going to be tougher, but we're the type of team that can stand up to it. These young men are ready to represent IU and show the country what they can do."
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