North Texas Daily

Men’s golf begins spring season play with high hopes

Men’s golf begins spring season play with high hopes

Men’s golf begins spring season play with high hopes
February 08
13:27 2016

Austin Jackson | Staff Writer

@a_jack17

It’s not a world tour or their girl’s tour, but the Mean Green men’s golf team starts spring ready to go back-to-back.

After finishing out fall with a breakout win at Quail Valley, head men’s golf coach Brad Stracke is looking to lead his senior-less squad of over-performing freshman and veteran leaders to consecutive C-USA titles for the second time in five years.

“We didn’t play quite like we should have, but we ended up playing great at the end of the year,” Stracke said. “After winning that last one, I’m expecting big things out of them by the end of spring.”

With a winter regiment consisting of workouts, range sessions and six practice rounds per week, Stracke has the Mean Green working hard to live up to expectations. The spring season begins Monday, Feb. 8 with a trip to San Antonio to face off against No. 10 Oklahoma University, last year’s winner Baylor University and conference foes at the UTSA Oak Hills Invitational. After Oak Hills, the team will play five tournaments leading up to the C-USA championship at Texarkana Country Club on April 24-27.

After the Mean Green lost their two best players on their C-USA championship team to graduation, Stracke replaced former standouts Juan Munoz and Jason Moetz with two international freshman.

“I think some of the other teams thought we weren’t going to be as good this year,” Stracke said. “But I knew we had a good class coming in and the guys returning. We’re good. I think we’re actually going to be a little stronger this year.”

Freshmen Thomas Rosenmueller and Ian Snyman proved Stracke right in the fall, stepping up as two of the team’s best players. Rosenmueller became the team’s ace, living under par all year by carrying a scoring average of 71.16.

That is almost two strokes better than Munoz, the team’s former ace.

“It was an amazing first season, especially as a freshman,” Rosenmueller said. “But there’s a lot of things I can take to a higher level.”

In the fall, Rosenmueller finished 12th at the Memphis Intercollegiate and second at the Windon Memorial, but he saved his best play for last at Quail Valley. In his final tournament, Germany’s No. 2 ranked amateur stormed to a blistering nine-under 63 in the second round, finishing the tournament on top of the leaderboard at 12-under.

Snyman, the Mean Green’s other freshman phenom, has goals to defend the team’s C-USA title and make a run at the NCAA championship, but said his sole focus is on the present.

“I feel like my game is getting better,” Snyman said. “I just need to put a good score on the board and come out guns-a-blazing at Oak Hills.”

The South Africa native held the team’s second best scoring average, 72.66, after the fall season and was named C-USA player of the week after finishing fifth at the Memphis Invitational – the best Mean Green freshman debut since 1999.

Sophomore Michael Cotton tied Snyman in scoring average, but had mixed results in the first two tournaments of the fall. Cotton finished seventh at the Bayou Classic then posted a team-best 68 in the final round at Quail Valley, securing the Mean Green’s first victory of the season.

In the final round of the Texas Amateur Championship, he wobbled, turning a two-stroke lead into a two-stroke deficit after going four over par through eight holes. But instead of imploding, Cotton showed resilience by draining putt after putt to go eight-under in his final 10 holes, ascending three strokes ahead of the runner-up to win Texas Amateur Championship.

The big stage brings out the best in junior Cory Churchman as well. With the 2015 Conference-USA title on the line, Churchman sank a five-foot birdie putt, sealing North Texas’ fourth conference title in eight years. After sweeping UAB in match play, he took over as team captain.

But fresh off his post-season heroics, Churchman began his junior year in a funk. In his first two tournaments, the Mean Green captain failed to string three cohesive rounds together, finishing outside of the top 50.

“At the start I didn’t play well. It was rough,” Churchman said. ”I’m one of the older guys. I should be the one everyone can count on to put a good score up there.”

By the third tournament, Churchman righted the ship, finishing 12th at the Bayou Classic and sixth at Quail Valley.

North Texas men’s golf enters spring ranked No. 66 nationally, second in conference behind No. 27 ranked University of Alabama at Birmingham. Churchman said the ranking didn’t stop them from winning a title last year, adding that rankings that really matter come after the season is over.

Churchman, Cotton, Rosenmueller and Snyman started every tournament in the fall with the fifth spot being shared between four other players. The fifth man rotation included sophomore Ross Martens and juniors Alejandro Villasana, Colin Pearson and Nick Rodriguez. Each posted rounds outside of the top 50 in tournament play, leaving the door open for junior Andrew Hudson and freshman Kyle Berkshire to make their first tournament appearance this spring.

Martens said the competition for the fifth spot has galvanized the team.

“It’s different than any other sport, really,” Martens, the team’s only lefty, said. “We’re all great friends off the course and you want your teammates to do well, but you want to play.”

Stracke is bringing six players to compete at Oak Hills: Churchman, Cotton, Rosenmueller, Villasana, Snyman and Pearson.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a tight golf course or wide open. My best players are my best players,” Stracke said. “They can play anywhere.”

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