STORRS, Conn. --- A challenging schedule that will include trips as far away as Arizona and Nebraska and two first-time tournament appearances await the 2015-16 UConn men's golf team.
The Huskies will play five events during the fall semester and five during the spring semester before competing in the American Athletic Conference Championships in Lecanto, Fla., in early May. The Huskies will host one tournament in each half of their schedule.
"This schedule goes along the lines of what we always attempt to do, which is play a national schedule against NCAA national qualifiers," said head coach Dave Pezzino, heading into his ninth season. "We want our guys to experience great courses in different parts of the country and play against the best fields possible and I think we've attained that goal once again this year."
UConn opens the fall portion of the schedule on Sept. 21-22 in a familiar tournament, competing in the Hartford Hawks Invitational at Bull's Bridge Golf Club in South Kent, Conn.
"It's become a staple on our schedule," Pezzino said. "It always has a very strong field and it's on a great course within our home state. It's a good way to open our season."
On Sept. 26-28, the Huskies will be making their first appearance at The Jackrabbit Fall Invitational, hosted by South Dakota State University, on the Dunes Course at The Prairie Club in Valentine, Neb. The head coach at South Dakota State, Casey VanDamme, and Pezzino have a personal relationship, both serving as instructors under legendary Jim McLean at McLean's golf school.
"Casey is building that tournament into being something very special," Pezzino said. "It's on a demanding course with a world class field."
UConn will then return home to host The Connecticut Cup on Oct. 12-13 at Ellington Ridge Country Club (Ellington, Conn.) for the seventh straight year.
"We're always excited to host the tournament at Ellington Ridge," Pezzino said. "The course is in great shape all year long, but it is in especially good shape that time of year."
The following week, on Oct. 19-20, the Huskies will compete in a brand new tournament, the Mountaineer Intercollegiate, hosted by West Virginia University, at the Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport, W.Va.
"West Virginia has done a great job building that program in just over one year," Pezzino said. "The tournament is at a great venue again with an extremely strong field in an area of the country where we haven't played before. I'm excited to add it to our schedule."
The Huskies will finish the fall portion of the schedule on Oct. 26-27 at the Quail Valley Intercollegiate Tournament, hosted by McNeese State, at the Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach, Fla.
"A UConn alum, John Bierkan (UConn, '00), is director of instruction there and when the tournament got started, he was a big proponent of us coming," Pezzino said. "McNeese State does a great job hosting. The field is really strong and the course is outstanding, and it just fits in a great spot in our schedule."
UConn begins the spring portion of the schedule on Feb. 28-March 1 by returning to the Palm Valley Golf Course in Goodyear, Ariz., to compete in the Loyola Golf Invitational, hosted by Loyola-Maryland.
"It's a three-day event to open our spring and the weather is always ideal out there that time of year," Pezzino said, "so it's a great opportunity for us to get to play on a fun, fast golf course."
On March 7-9, UConn travels to Bluffton, S.C., to play in the Colleton River Collegiate at Colleton River Plantation, hosted by Michigan State.
"That golf course just hosted the U.S. Junior and is really strong, and it fits our team really well," the UConn coach said. "The field that Michigan State puts together is always a true testament to elite college golf. We're happy for the opportunity to compete there."
UConn has been a fixture at the FAU Slomin Autism Championship, hosted by Florida Atlantic at The Fountains Country Club in Lake Worth, Fla., this year on March 25-27.
"It's a large field, with teams that qualify for the NCAA Championship, and that's an important aspect for me when we put this thing together," Pezzino said.
Moving into April, the Huskies travel to Penn State for the Rutherford Invitational on the Penn State Blue Course, in State College, Pa., on Aril 16-17.
"We have some good success on the Blue Course," Pezzino said. "Penn State brings in a lot of Big 10 schools, so it's a solid field."
For the second straight year, UConn will host the Til Duty Is Done Collegiate Invitational, honoring returning veterans. This year, the tournament will be held on April 23-24 at the Mohegan Sun Golf Club in Baltic, Conn.
"I very proud that we've been able to do this and really proud that we were able to get it started as we did," Pezzino said. "Last year, we had three winners of the Bronze Star, two Silver Star winners, six Purple Heart recipients and six man-years of recovery time at Walter Reed Hospital, all volunteering to help with the tournament. I can tell you that everybody in the field felt the presence of those heroes walking amongst us. It's quite an honor to be able to actually introduce our young people to the veterans who sacrifice so much for us."
The TDID event, the final tournament on UConn's regular-season schedule, also provides an opportunity for the Huskies to prepare for The American Conference Championships, set for the Quarry Course at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Fla., on May 1-3.
"Our league is extremely strong and we have to be prepared for that kind of competition," Pezzino said. "We are looking forward to returning so many guys who were competing for spots last year in our lineup, plus the fact that everybody played such a great tournament schedule in the summer and all the new guys played a heavy tournament schedule as well. So, qualifying for spots will be very exciting."