How do you practice/prepare between now and February? To build off that, how does that affect things like the NCAA tournament come the spring?
UM Men's Golf Fall Recap
During the summer it was suggested that I contribute some diaries about the golf teams. The fall has just finished up for the men’s team so I thought it would be a good time to give everyone an update.
To start, I wanted to offer an explanation of how college golf actually works for those who might not know - for the ones that do, I apologize for being redundant. The typical college golf tournament features 10 to 15 teams competing over the course of 54 holes with each team starting only 5 golfers. In each of the 3 rounds the team counts the best 4 scores of the 5 players. Here is a leaderboard from the last event that the men’s team played in: http://www.golfstatresults.com//public/leaderboards/team/static/team2068.html
As you can see, Michigan finished 4th with rounds of 279, 275 and 289 for a total of 843. If you click on “Michigan” it links to the 3rd round scorecards of each of the players. In this particular event, Miguel’s scores were dropped in each of the 3 rounds – shown by the chart at the top of the page.
Big Ten championships and NCAA Regionals/Finals are played in the spring for college golf. Similar to basketball, the winner of the Big Ten Championship is awarded a spot in NCAA Regionals. Besides the automatic qualifiers, to be selected for NCAA regionals a team must finish with a ranking around 60th or better in the nation and have a record of better than .500. Golf team’s do not play matches against individual teams throughout the year, instead all competition is conducted in the form of the tournaments described above. Going back to the tournament page I linked above, Michigan’s “record” is obtained by beating the teams in each tournament. Michigan was +7 in that tournament after beating 10 teams and losing to 3. The team ranking is currently 30th in the nation which is affected by their overall record as well as their record against teams in the Top 25/50.
In the 5 events in the fall, the men’s team compiled a record of 48-18-1, leaving them 30 wins above 500. After a slow start in the first event (9th), the team finished with 1 tournament victory and a total of 4 top-5 finishes.
One of the most representative stats for a college golf team is the number of Top-20 individual finishes for a team. To win tournaments you do not have to have the individual champion, but rather 3 or 4 solid performances. As a team Michigan had 11 Top-20 finishes this fall and 4 of those came during the team victory in the Windon Memorial Classic.
The fall season was solid, not spectacular, but solid. The foundation of this team is based on 3 guys: Lion Kim (Sr), Matt Thompson (Jr) and Jack Schultz (So). Lion came off a solid summer which included a win at the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links and earned his first individual tournament win of his college career ( http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/um-golf-lion-kim-wins-us-amateur-pub-links ). Matt has maintained his solid play since he was part of the 3rd place '08/09 team as a freshman. And Jack, after earning himself Big Ten Freshman of the year in 2009, has been playing well this fall too.
At the beginning of the year I would have said Joey Garber (Fr) and Alexander Sitompul (Sr) were going to be the wild cards this year. That has proven pretty accurate as Sitompul went from leading the team in the first event to not starting the last two events of the fall. I had the opportunity to play with him for two years and I can honestly say I have never seen anyone with more potential. He is a physical freak and mentally equipped for pressure but he hasn’t been able to consistently contribute. Joey, on the other hand, has lived up to his recruiting hype (http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/um-golf-commit-joey-garber-wins-michigan-amateur ) and has been impressive since his first event including a 2nd place finish in the Bank of Tennesse Intercollegiate.
The issue that could really hurt this team going forward is depth. Lion, Matt, Jack and Joey have pretty much solidified their spots in the first 4 positions but there is a hole in the 5 spot. The most likely person to fill that hole by the end of the year is Alexander Sitompul. He is experienced and when he is playing well he is the best player on the team. Rahul Bakshi (So) and Miguel Echavarria (So) will also be in the mix throughout the spring but the team is thus vulnerable if one of the top 4 fall to injury, sickness, ineligibility, or just a slump. None of which are extremely likely, but it is not out of the realm of possibility and has happened before.
The golf team is now in the offseason until returning February 11th for the Big Ten Match Play tournament in Florida.
The biggest change about the offseason for most teams is the reduction from 20 hours a week to 8 hours a week. For teams in the midwest, the biggest change is the weather. On average by mid-November the teams can't practice outside. This is why the construction of the indoor facility for the golf programs is so important - see here http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-golf/spec-rel/071510aac.html
At the moment, Michigan and Iowa are the only teams in the Big Ten without one. While I was in school, off-season practice was relegated to putting on the basement putting green in the U of M clubhouse and hitting balls at Miles of Golf. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't fun hitting balls off of artificial turf in 15 degree weather with wind blowing snow sideways but it was something we did because we wanted to get better. Normally sometime in January guys on the team will organize a captain's trip to somewhere warm like Florida. Guys pay for it themselves, but the benefit of playing even just for a long weekend far outweighs the cost. As you can probably tell, not much actual golf is played in the winter. Before the Big Ten match play was developed most guys on the team had only played 2 rounds in 3 months before the first spring tournament (the Big Ten match play is an exhibition match play format that helps the Big Ten teams prepare both for the format of NCAA Finals and the spring season in general.
In that way, the winter off-season can really affect the spring season. Even after the first tournaments of the spring are held, most of spring practice is held indoors because the team can't get on a golf course until late March at the earliest.
Thanks a lot for the insight!
Would love to know how Michigan stacked up compared with our Big Ten rivals, and what the team's strengths and weaknesses are in terms of:
Home practice course(s) -- compared to other top and Big Ten teams
I live in Las Vegas and the UNLV golf teams get to practice at a bunch of sweet local courses (Shadow Creek, Cascata, Rio Secco, Southern Highlands and others) and that seems like a pretty obvious recruiting advantage.
Thanks for reminding me, I meant to add a piece about how Michigan stacks up to other teams. I would say the best four teams in the Big Ten are Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern - in that order. Michigan State went from being one of the top 3 teams 4 years ago to far and away the worst team in the Big Ten under Sam Puryear. On paper, he won a Big Ten title in his first year, but it was like Les Miles with Nick Saban’s LSU team. MSU is currently ranked something like 185 in the country.
As for golf facilities, the U of M Course (an Alister McKenzie design) is one of the gems in the Big Ten. Some people think it is too short for high levels of golf competition but the course when played firm and fast demands a great deal of precision. Proof is the fact that the NCAA has chosen U of M to host one of the six 2012 regional qualifiers. Radrick Farms is ok, but IMO it is not a great design despite being Pete Dye’s first course. The team is also very fortunate to have the chance to play Oakland Hills, Inverness and Barton Hills pretty regularly. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue and U of M all have highly regarded University courses. I don’t particularly enjoy Purdue, but that is more of a personal preference thing.
As I mentioned in the reply above, Michigan has been in desperate need of an indoor facility and is one of only 2 Big Ten teams without one. The construction is under way and will be a pivotal in both player development and recruiting for years to come.
Recruiting wise I think Coach Sapp is definitely one of the best in the Big Ten if not the country. Before we were competing nationally he was able to pull two top-20 recruits from Florida in Lion Kim and Alexander Sitompul (Seniors). The three classes behind them include the Matt Thompson, Jack Schultz and Joey Garber. Thompson and Garber were both the best players in Michigan at the time of their recruitment and Jack was one of the best juniors in the Midwest. Coach Sapp must have borrowed some of RichRod’s snake oil for Schultz because he switched from Wisconsin to Maize & Blue on signing day.
I would say the most highly regarded coaches in the Big Ten would be Pat Goss (NW), Mike Small (Illinois) and Mark Hankins (Iowa). Coach Sapp is a great coach who some might not put in their category but his record speaks for itself – the team has improved in national ranking each of his first 7 years, including two consecutive NCAA regional appearances and one 3rd place finish in 2008/09. The program is definitely on the up and I expect that they will win the Big Ten Championship in the next 3 years.
Thanks a million for the thorough explanation. Let's hope a Big Ten title is on the way.
is not a nice man.