After capturing its third consecutive Big Ten crown last season, the Ohio State men’s golf team searches for a Big Ten “four-peat” in 1998. The Buckeyes took the last three conference titles at Wisconsin in ’95, at Penn State in ’96, and on its home course last season. The 1997 title was the 22nd overall for Ohio State, most of any school in Big Ten history, and was head coach Jim Brown’s 16th in his 24 years of coaching the Buckeyes. Additionally, the OSU golfers will look to build on the momentum of their remarkable fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships, its highest since tying for fourth in 1987.
Ohio State is again one of the early favorites to win the ’98 Big Ten Championship, but in order to do so, Brown will have to find suitable replacements for last year’s top two golfers, Chris Wollmann and Didier deVooght, both of whom graduated (last spring). Still, the Buckeyes return three solid, tournament tested players, each of whom started on last year’s team. There will also be considerable competition for the fourth and fifth starting spots, as no fewer than five golfers will vie for these positions.
The Buckeyes are led by all-Big Ten and All-America honorable mention selection Craig Matthew. A two-year starter, Matthew is the lowest scorer of the Buckeye returnees, averaging 72.9 strokes per round last season. His consistent play reached its peak in the postseason. He tied for 11th place at the NCAA Central Regional, finishing two-under par for the tournament and helping the Buckeyes to an NCAA berth. Two weeks later at the NCAA Championships, Matthew finished tied for tenth place, the highest of any Ohio State golfer.
Matthew is one of Canada’s finest amateur competitors. Amongst his many Canadian tournament titles is the 1993 Quebec Amateur Championship. He was runner-up at both the 1996 Quebec Amateur and Canadian Amateur Championships as well.
“Craig ended up last year as one of our better players,” Brown said. “He played the way that we thought he could play, especially in the regionals and the NCAA Championship, and that really helped us a lot.”
Senior Ryan Armour returns for his fourth season as a member of the starting five, and will combine with Matthew for a potent one-two punch. After a solid freshman campaign in which he was named all-Big Ten, Armour emerged as the Buckeyes’ most consistent performer in 1996. He carried a 74.4 stroke average and his six top 10 finishes led the team, which also gave him eight for his career.
Armour continued his strong play last season, garnering six top 20 individual finishes, and finishing the year with an average of 73.6 strokes per round. In addition, he narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Open, shooting a 144 over two rounds, just three strokes shy of the target score. Three-time letterwinner Jeff Brown will likely occupy the third spot in OSU’s starting rotation. After competing in just six tournaments during his first two seasons, Brown emerged as an important component in last season’s lineup, competing in 12 tournaments. As the number five golfer, he gave the Buckeyes added depth, recording three top ten individual finishes including a career best eighth place tie at the Furman Invitational. Additionally, Brown was the top Ohio State finisher at the Golf World/ Palmetto Dunes Classic, firing a three-round total of 214 which included his season best round of 69.
“Craig, Ryan, and Jeff will be our leaders this year,” Brown said. “They bring a lot of experience to the table, they played in a lot of tournaments over the summer so that will make them better, and we think that we’ve got a solid nucleus coming back with these guys leading us.”
The fourth and fifth spots in the starting lineup will be up for grabs. Sophomore Andrew Montooth, a former Ohio High School state golf championship runner-up from the Columbus area will likely fill one of the spots. As a freshman he competed in just one tournament, but with the loss of two starters he will be relied on heavily to help the Buckeyes to a fifth consecutive Big Ten crown.
Also getting a look for a starting position will be Albert Hromulak. The junior from Johnstown, Pa. transferred to Ohio State in 1996 from Southern Methodist after being named Southwest Conference Freshman of the Year in 1995. Last year he competed in four tournaments and showed signs of brilliance, especially at the Topy Cup where he finished tied for 14th place individually, firing his season best round of 71.
Other golfers in the hunt for the two openings will be senior Derek Denlinger, a 1995 junior college All-American and runner-up at the 1995 NJCAA National Championships. Also in the hunt will be Columbus area high school standout, junior Billy Corbin, and senior walk-on Jason Bucci. The Buckeyes will also have the services of two sophomores, Wisconsin state high school champion Edvins Erkmanis, and Minnesota native Niall Hay. They should bring added depth to the roster, along with two prize recruits in Mike Austin from Burton, Mich. and Danny Janson from Grand Rapids, Mich. “Two of our freshmen coming in are wonderful,” Brown said. “Mike Austin has won two AJGA tournaments and set tournament records in both of them. In the last one he finished at 12 under par, and Danny Janson finished third in the same tournament.”
“Mike has the same type of credentials coming into Ohio State that Chris Wollmann had when he was a freshman, and Danny Janson’s got some great credentials too.”
Although a good portion of the starting lineup is uncertain, the Buckeyes still entertain hopes of a fourth consecutive Big Ten crown, and another high finish in the NCAA Championships. “We still have the pieces to be a championship caliber golf team,” Brown said. “It’s just a matter of putting all of them in the right places.”
1997-98 Buckeye Schedule Sept. 29-30 PING/Golfweek Preview Albuquerque, N.M. Oct. 13-14 Red River Classic Dallas Athletic Club, Dallas, Texas Nov. 14-16 Golf World/Palmetto Dunes Palmetto Dunes Golf Course, Hilton Head, S.C. Feb. 7-8 Gator Invitational University of Florida Golf Club, Gainesville, Fla. March 6-8 Matlock Collegiate Classic ImperiaLakes Golf Club, Lakeland, Fla. 27-29 Furman Invitational Furman University Golf Club, Greenville, S.C. April 3-5 U.S. Intercollegiate Orlando, Fla. 10-11 Marshall Invitational Guyan Country Club, Huntington, W. Va. 18-19 KEPLER INTERCOLLEGIATE OSU SCARLET COURSE, COLUMBUS, OHIO May 2-3 Wolverine Invitational Univ. of Michigan Golf Course, Ann Arbor, Mich. 8-10 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS Forest Akers West, Lansing, Mich. 14-16 NCAA Central Regional San Antonio, Texas 27-30 NCAA Championships Albuquerque, N.M.