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2003 UConn Men's Golf Outlook

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 should help."

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 golfing mechanics.

"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 roll around.

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 Championship.

"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."


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