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Ohio State looking to continue strong play in spring season

by Kyle Rowland, Ohio State Athletics Communications 

In November, the Ohio State men’s golf team completed its most successful fall campaign in recent memory. In four events played during the fall 2007 season, the Buckeyes finished in the Top 4 in three events and never finished lower than eighth. Already, they have had five individual Top 10 finishes, including four in the Top 5, after totaling had eight all last season.

The high point of the season came Oct. 26-28 at the Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, N.C., where the Buckeyes secured a third-place finish. It was a true team effort as OSU relied on both senior leadership and freshman enthusiasm to battle near the top of the leaderboard.

“Our team is together more than any team I’ve been apart of,” senior co-captain Kyle Coconis said. “There is not really an individual on the team. The past few years we’ve always had one guy we’ve looked up to. This year we’ve relied on everyone. When we take five guys on the road we rely on everyone to shoot a good score. It has helped bring us together as a team.”

Coconis was one of the pleasant surprises of the fall campaign. After playing sparingly his previous three seasons with the Buckeyes, the native of Zanesville, Ohio, has been a cornerstone to the team in the four tournaments.

“It’s definitely been a different year,” Coconis said. “I started out well the first tournament and I kept building on that. We have some new faces on the team and I’m interested to see how we pan out in the spring.”

Coconis had a stroke average of 72 and was able to achieve both his lowest round in collegiate competition, a 68 at the Landfall Tradition, and his best finish, which also came at the Landfall where he placed second at 4-under 212.

Head coach Jim Brown, in his 35th season at the helm of the Buckeyes, was not shocked by his teams’ successful start.

“After the fall qualifier when they played well, we saw they had the potential to do it,” Brown said. “We were still making bogeys when we probably shouldn’t, but I saw the potential. They all had good summers and brought that into the fall, so we’re really hoping this is something to build on and we can get something going.”

Sophomore Patrick Simard and freshman Bo Hoag also got off to fast starts this fall. Simard, from Marbella, Spain, led the team with a stroke average just under 71. He carded a 66, the lowest round for a Buckeye all fall, at the Coca-Cola Duke Golf Classic (Oct. 7-8). His fourth-place finish helped the Buckeyes place fourth as a team in a tournament that was loaded with top teams.

Hoag started his collegiate career with a bang by shooting a 67 at the William H. Tucker Invitational (Sept. 14-15) at the UNM Championship Course, considered the toughest college course by many.

“I was a little nervous because it was a different atmosphere. I didn’t know what to expect,” the Upper Arlington, Ohio, native said. “I tried to just tell myself you’re still playing a golf course. It’s the same thing you’ve been doing. The golf course isn’t going to change just because it’s a college tournament.”

Hoag went on to finish ninth in the event. He would shoot another 67 in the final round of the SSC Pacific Invitational (Nov. 5-7). Combined with a 69 and 68 in the first two rounds, Hoag had a season-best fifth-place finish with a score of 204 (-12).

The stellar play by the OSU golfers has been in large part because of their success around the greens.

“We really emphasized short game this year,” Simard said. “It’s really helped the whole team.”

“We told them what they needed to improve on if they wanted to be the player that would help the team,” Brown said. “Patrick (Simard) worked so hard on his wedges, bunker game and short game. Now he’s number two in the country in short game. We told Bo (Kyle) Coconis he needed to get more experience and play smart. They’ve all came back and are playing well.”

Coconis added, “Our best finishes, with Bo (Hoag) last tournament was putting, my good finishes are because of putting and Patrick’s been putting well. We’ve taken two days a week and just had short game sessions.” 

Even though the final tournament was their lowest finish, Brown was encouraged to what may happen when the spring season begins in February.

“Our last tournament we finished in eighth place, but we shot 17-under-par which shows the potential of this team,” Brown said. “That’s the lowest we’ve shot in a long time here, so we’ve got some good things going.”