STORRS, Conn. -- Coming off one of the most successful seasons in the history of the UConn men's golf program, the Husky golfers begin the 2016-17 season Saturday, competing in the Doc Gimmler Invitational at the Bethpage State Park Red Course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
That tournament kicks off an 11-event schedule, split between fall and spring sessions, which includes hosting two tournaments and culminates at the American Athletic Conference Championship at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Florida. The Huskies, led by senior co-captains Eric Dietrich (Cheshire, Conn.) and Tyler Cooke (Warwick, R.I.), will be looking to build on last year's success, during which UConn won two tournaments and recorded seven Top 5 finishes in 11 events. Four seniors graduated from that team, however, leaving the 2016-17 Huskies a bit short on experience.
"This group will have a lot to learn, but they are all willing to work hard and I'm excited to take them out to face this challenging schedule," said 10-year head coach Dave Pezzino. "It's a great experience for them to learn against this level of competition on some outstanding golf courses. That's why they came here, to compete against some of the best teams in the country."
The Doc Gimmler Invitational, hosted by St. John's, is a good place to begin that challenge.
"Bethpage is just a special place in golf and it will be a great experience for our kids," Pezzino said. "The tournament always has an extremely strong field and is very well-run. We're really looking forward to it."
The following week, on Sept 19-20, the Huskies will defend the title they captured last year at the Hartford Hawks Invitational at Bull's Bridge Golf Club in South Kent, Conn.
"Hartford always does a great job running a high-level tournament," Pezzino said. "And we play on a golf course that tests every shot. It's a terrific learning experience for our team."
For the second consecutive year, UConn will journey to The Prairie Club Dunes Course in Valentine, Neb., to compete in The Jackrabbit Fall Invitational, sponsored by South Dakota State University, a three-day event on Sept. 25-27.
"That tournament is something every college player should get to experience," Pezzino said. "The course is special and they treat the players, coaches, and staff like they are at a tour event. It's a wonderful couple of days that our student-athletes will remember."
The Huskies move into October with a return to the Macdonald Cup, hosted by Yale, on the Yale Golf Course in New Haven, on Oct. 1-2.
"The course at Yale defines how to use course management," Pezzino said. "It will be a first for our younger guys in managing their game plan throughout the tournament. I'm excited for our team to be back there."
The Huskies wrap up the fall portion of the schedule by hosting the 8th Annual Connecticut Cup, on Oct. 10-11 at Ellington Ridge Country Club.
"We are so proud to call Ellington Ridge home," Pezzino said. "We are extremely grateful for our relationship with Ellington Ridge and its members and the wonderful way they have treated us over the years. (PGA professional) Tony Rowe and his staff have always been tremendously helpful and we just can't thank them enough."
The spring portion of the UConn schedule begins on Feb. 25-27 with the Loyola Intercollegiate at Palm Valley Golf Course in Goodyear, Ariz., a tourney hosted by Loyola-Maryland.
"There is no better place to start our spring schedule," Pezzino said. "It has a great field, it's at a great facility and Loyola makes sure it is very well run."
UConn has become a fixture at the Colleton River Collegiate, hosted by Michigan State, at Colleton River Plantation Country Club in Bluffton, S.C. This year, it will be held on March 6-7.
"They had a great field there last year and this year, I think it is even better," Pezzino said.
Another staple on the UConn schedule has been the FAU Slomin Autism Championship. The Florida Atlantic-hosted tournament will be held this year on March 24-26 at The Fountains Country Club in Lake Worth, Fla.
UConn will then participate in the tournament of a conference colleague as it journeys to Greenville, N.C., to play in the East Carolina Intercollegiate on April 3-4 at Brook Valley Country Club.
The Huskies will finish their regular season by hosting their second tournament, the Til Duty Is Done Collegiate Invitational, on April 14-15. And Mohegan Sun Golf Club in Baltic, Conn. The unique tournament, which honors returning U.S. veterans, will again include a team from the Veterans Golf Association, competing alongside the college teams.
"I think it was a tremendous success last year," Pezzino said. "It was so great to see the young people have a chance to interact with people who have served our country, the men whose sacrifices allow them to do things like play college golf. I received great feedback about how the student-athletes got so much out of it and the veterans loved it, too."
The season will wrap up with the American Athletic Conference Championship on April 23-25, which this year has been moved to the Innisbrook Golf Resort, Copperhead Course, in Palm Harbor, Fla.
"How great is it to have our conference championship at a PGA Tour facility?" Pezzino said. "It will be a lot like an NCAA Regional, especially with the high level of competition that we have in our league. I can't imagine any college player not being excited about it."