As the Connecticut golf team prepares for its first spring
season under head coach Ron Dubois, the Huskies are far from a finished product
but optimism abounds with a young team that is certain to improve throughout the
spring season and beyond. Five of the eight Husky golfers were not on the team
in the spring of 2002 and four had never before played in a collegiate
tournament prior to this past fall. All now have gotten an indoctrination to the
college game, the UConn squad just may be a pretty good one in 2003.
"I expect us to do much better in the spring," Dubois says.
"Our team is proud of the competition we’re in, and about their fellow players.
The teamwork is there. Although it is not your classic team sport, we are
building a team effort and attitude.
"All of the freshmen have experience from this past fall in
tournament play so those jitters should be over with. We’ll play with more
confidence. We’re going back to some courses that we played before and that
UConn has already taken one significant stride towards a
successful spring season before even teeing up the ball for the first hole of
the season. The team will benefit greatly from the addition of an assistant
coach in PGA teaching professional John Boucher, who will help with the team’s
"Bringing on a swing coach should be a tremendous help and I
would expect that to improve our scores by a few strokes per player," Dubois
says. "Having a PGA pro available to correct some of their problems should be a
huge help and it reflects positively on the commitment that the Division of
Athletics has in regards to having a solid golf program."
The Huskies have one lone four-year senior on their 2003
roster in team captain Nathan Thomsen. Thomsen was the team’s third-best player
in the fall, a season that was highlighted by him placing first amongst Huskies
at The McLaughlin — played at challenging Bethpage Red course in Farmingdale,
N.Y. The accompanying Bethpage Black course was the site of Tiger Woods’ victory
in the 2002 U.S. Open just four months prior to the collegiate event, as this
marks just one of the quality courses that the Huskies get to play every year.
A pair of solid sophomores, Justin Ciombor and Mike Murphy,
will form the backbone of the 2003 Huskies. Murphy was UConn’s top finisher in a
pair of tournaments and tied for first with Ciombor in a third. His 72 in the
final round of the MacDonald Cup at Yale tied for the team’s top round all
season. Ciombor was UConn’s most consistent golfer in the fall, placing second
for the team in four of the five events and tying Murphy for the team lead at
the New England Championship. His 78.0 stroke average led UConn in the autumn
season. People around the New England golfing community have taken notice of the
diminutive Ciombor’s skills.
"Justin is a little guy but he can swing a club," Dubois
says. "Other coaches have been very impressed by him and many have commented on
his playing ability. He’s just in his second year so more experience will help
him get better."
Sophomore Daniel Keefe also got back in the swing of things
last fall after not competing in the spring of 2002. Keefe compiled an 80.1
stroke average in his four tournament appearances, highlighted by a low round of
75 at Yale in the season-opening MacDonald Cup, two strokes off of his career
best of 73 set last fall as a freshman.
In addition to senior Anthony Hrenko, three talented
newcomers will boost UConn in the spring. All three got experience playing in
tournaments this fall so their nerves should be calm when the spring tournaments
Freshman Michael Hornung and junior Jordan Burke each played
in a pair of tournaments in the fall of 2002. Burke capped the season in grand
style by leading UConn, and tying for 21st overall, in the John MacDonald
Classic at Temple. Hornung helped the Huskies in both of his events, the New
England Championships and MacDonald Classic. Hornung placed third amongst his
Husky peers at the New Englands in a possible show of what is to come from the
talented newcomer. Freshman Chris Walton also saw his first collegiate
experience in October when he played in the MacDonald Classic.
While the team stroke average of 81.0 posted in the fall
season will not suffice for the Huskies to continue to be a New England and BIG
EAST force, there is ample cause for optimism as the spring season approaches.
"You can’t be competitive at the level that we’re competing
at with those kind of scores," Dubois says. "But, we’re not backing off. We’re
playing in many challenging tournaments. We’re going back to Yale and Rhode
Island. We’re going back to South Carolina where the team played last spring.
We’re also traveling to North Carolina and then, of course, San Diego. I think
we can move up. We’ll have some head to head competition with St. John’s, Seton
Hall, Villanova and Rutgers which should help us gain a berth in the BIG EAST
"Getting the swing coach shows that there is a commitment
towards having a good golf program at UConn and that can only help the team.
We’ll play some good courses and we always play great competition. I know I can
take good people and get them to the right places to do things. We look forward
to a successful spring season.
"We start the spring season with three tournaments in March.
We have spring break week in California as a team when they’re all traveling and
playing together. That should boost them up and have them come back playing
great in other spring tournaments. It’s exciting. It’s spring, and you’ve got a
new attitude. Your battery’s recharged because you haven’t been playing golf
from October through February. In the fall, you’ve been playing all summer and
you should be at the peak of your game. However, it’s a long spell of continuous
golf. They shouldn’t be tired in March through the end of April and I look for
some great things out of our guys."