Photo by Bob Rafferty
The 2009 Wittenberg Tiger men's golf team has its eye on the top of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) and possibly earning a spot in the field at the NCAA Division III National Championships. A strong fall season helped propel second-year head coach Jeff Roope and his team to a third-place position in the conference heading into the spring, primed to strike for the top spot.
As a unit, the Tigers carded a 302.1 shots per round average, a full seven-stroke improvement over last year's effort. A top-two finish would be the first for the program since 1995-96, while a Wittenberg title would be just the second as part of the NCAC and first since 1991-92 for this proud, historically high-achieving program.
A trio of seniors are expected to lead the charge in 2009, headlined by second-team All-NCAC performer from a year ago, Garrett Smith (Powell, Ohio/Worthington Christian). One of three co-captains on this year's squad, Smith improved by more than a shot per round from his team-best mark in 2007-08. Smith's 75.8 shots per round placed him third on the Tigers after a solid fall campaign.
Fellow senior and co-captain Chad Summe (Cincinnati, Ohio/LaSalle) brings back in a 76.9 mark from the fall season, an average that includes a stellar 147 total from the Wittenberg Fall Classic. Like Smith, Summe continues to lower his average, shaving off more than a stroke from the 2007-08 campaign. Senior Dan Buchan (Dublin, Ohio/Worthington Christian) also factors into the playing rotation after turning in a 152 at Windy Knoll Country Club in the Tiger-hosted Fall Classic.
From there, Roope turns to a talented collection of underclassmen, many of whom showed they were well-prepared to card low numbers at the collegiate level to keep Wittenberg on pace to turn heads in the conference. Leading the way among the newcomers, Ricky Boerner (Hilliard, Ohio/Watterson) was simply outstanding in his first half-season of collegiate golf. Gems on the course at the Denison and Guy W. Kuhn Invitationals have established a very high ceiling for Boerner, who ranks second individually in NCAC Championship play with a 72.3 scoring average at the halfway point of the 2008-09 season.
Freshman Jordan Millice (Cable, Ohio/Triad) has also proven his potential on the course. In fall action, Millice turned in team-best marks at the Wittenberg Fall Invitational, carding a 144, which included a second-round score of three-under par 69. Fellow first-year Ben Smith (North Bend, Ohio/Elder) finished just a few shots off Millice's pace, taking a 147 at the Tigers' home invitational, while recording the fourth best scoring average through fall play.
Junior Stephen Nevius (Springfield, Ohio/Catholic Central) and freshman Brian Rolland (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) provide depth for one of the strongest Tiger teams in recent years. In addition, sophomore Patrick Beausejour (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier) and freshman Chris Dix (Elida, Ohio/Elida) are in the mix. Beausejour battled back from injury to show flashes of brilliance for the Tigers this fall, including a 147 at the Oberlin Invitational.
With two conference tournament championship events in the books, the Tigers look to continue their drive for the top with two more events. A trip to Wabash on April 18-19 followed by the Allegheny-hosted NCAC Championships will determine the Tigers finish this spring. Other events along the way will help the Tigers climb rankings into NCAA Division III postseason contention.
Written By: Ben Bradley, SID Assistant