STORRS, Conn. – For the third consecutive year, the UConn men’s golf team will make military veterans part of its spring event. The Veteran Golfers Association/UConn Collegiate Invitational will bring together a team of military veterans and nine collegiate teams in a competition that always becomes a unique and rewarding experience for both.
“It’s just an awesome event,” said UConn senior co-captain Eric Dietrich, who won individual medalist honors at last year’s tournament. “We get to play with a team of veterans who put their lives on hold and went and served our country. Not only do they love the game of golf and have so much passion for it, but they are amazing people. It’s really an honor for a bunch of college students to be able to play with them.”
The tournament will feature a 10-team, 61-player field at Mohegan Sun Golf Club in Baltic, Conn. The opening ceremonies will take place on April 13 at 12:30 p.m., which is practice round day for the players. The opening two rounds are scheduled for Friday, April 14, with the final round on Saturday morning, April 15.
“It’s great to see the young people get a chance to interact with people who have served our country, the men whose sacrifices allow them to do things like play college golf,” UConn head coach Dave Pezzino said. “I have received such great feedback about how the student-athletes get so much out of it and the veterans loved it as well.”
Besides UConn and Team VGA, the tournament will include teams from Army-West Point, Bryant, Central Connecticut, Hartford, LIU-Brooklyn, Rider, Sacred Heart and St. Thomas Aquinas.
“We played with Army here last year, too,” Dietrich said. “To play with veterans and future veterans … we’re just side notes in that group. But it’s a great atmosphere -- everyone gets along, everyone is rooting for each other, especially the veterans. They are good golfers themselves, but they are really cheering for us to do well. I never had anybody in my group cheering for me before.”
Dietrich heard plenty of cheers last year when he shot a course-record 64 during the final round to win individual medalist honors and also lead the Huskies to the team tournament championship. UConn had four players shoot under par, five players finish among the Top 10, as the Huskies posted an aggregate 18-under par 846 to dominate the field.
“It was my first win and I had a nice final round to get it, plus we won, so it felt great,” Dietrich said. “It was something I was striving for and it finally happened. I do feel comfortable on that course, but you can’t go into a tournament with any expectations.”
Except the expectation in this tournament of meeting people ready to share some interesting life lessons.
“Coach Pezzino loves the idea, he’s always supported it,” Dietrich said. “I know he’s got some friends at VGA and he’s always instilled in us how important it is to support the veterans. It’s great that we get this opportunity.”
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