By Josh Brown
Coming off a national tournament appearance in which it finished 23rd, the Union University men’s golf team is looking to build upon a successful 2009 season and aiming to shoot higher this year under Head Coach Andy Rushing, who is in his fourth season as the team’s coach.
The team started on the right track with a win in the Union University Fall Invitational, Sept. 17.
While the team only lost two seniors from last year’s roster — Mills Hamaguchi and Clay Mallard — Jake Carroll, senior nursing major, said it was a big tandem to lose.
“They provided a lot of unity to the team and were looked to for advice by the younger players, not to mention their ability as golfers,” Carroll said. “Guys like that are always going to be big losses, but they have established relationships with the freshmen and have a main concern for the betterment of the team.”
Union golf added four freshmen to this year’ s team: Steven Coffelt, undecided major; Chris Hawks, business administration major; Matthew McSwain, undecided major; and Charlie Pittman, biblical studies major.
Each provide depth to the team, but two freshmen in particular have already made an impression.
“Charlie and Steven have stuck out a lot,” Carroll said. “As freshmen they have already made the travel squad to the first Division I tournament of the year. They practice a lot and are also competitive during qualifying between their teammates.”
Because freshmen are the future of college sports, it is crucial for freshmen to gain confidence in their first season. Many times they come in with unrealistic expectations and set unreachable goals for themselves, only to realize they are trying to do too much.
“You want to do well, but you do not want to put a lot of pressure on yourself,” Coffelt said. “My goals coming in were to just play steady and get off to a good pace.”
Upperclassmen play a crucial role in setting the example for freshmen teammates, as well as alleviating some of that pressure. Carroll said the team often meets at least once a week for breakfast.
“The (upperclassmen) have brought us (freshmen) in well,” Coffelt said. “They are always looking out for us and wanting us to do well, and they have done an excellent job in helping us jump to the college level.”
While conference play and bigger tournaments do not start until the spring, the team is taking fall practices and tournaments seriously. Carroll said each player is constantly working on his game as a whole, but specifically on his short game, a point on which Coach Rushing often harps.
“Coach always says a short game puts players at an advantage on off days and provides leeway against opponents,” Carroll said. “Some days you are not going to hit the green in regulation, but a good short game can help save par.”
For the five seniors on the team, this may be the last year they play golf at a competitive level, so this season means even more to them.