The 1999-00 season brings a challenge that head coach Jim Brown and his golfers are not accustomed to facing: bouncing back from a disappointing season.
But Brown is confident the team will come back with flying colors this year.
“We want to get Buckeye golf back to where it’s supposed to be and we have the players to do it,” he said.
The team returns five of its top six players from last year and has added some key newcomers who could challenge for playing time.
Speaking of playing time, that will be another challenge each member of the team will face. Most of the spots in the lineup are up for grabs this season, something that is rare for one of Brown’s teams.
“Usually by this time of the year I know three guys who will play for sure and we have six guys who could play in the last two spots,” Brown said. “I’m not sure this year because of the guys who came along last year.”
Another Challenging Schedule
The Buckeyes will once again face a daunting schedule, but the squad will be ready after the experience they gained a year ago.
“This is a really competitive schedule with a lot of top teams,” Brown said. “We’ll see a lot of Big Ten people in a lot of those tournaments.”
The team starts the season at the Northern Intercollegiate hosted by Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. The tournament will give the Buckeyes an early look at the course they will play during the Big Ten Championships May 5-7.
Also on tap in the fall is the Iron Duke Invitational in Durham, N.C. This course will be home to the NCAA Championships in two years and with no seniors and only two juniors on the team, many of the players will be around for that tournament.
Brown picked up a fourth tournament on the winter schedule and the team will be starting a little earlier than usual when they head to Tuscon, Ariz., for the Arizona/Ping Invitational Jan. 31-Feb. 1.
Five Out of the Top Six are Back
Seven letterwinners return from last year, including five of the six leading scorers. Chris Emanuel (Jr., Ottumwa, Iowa), the scoring leader last year, returns for his second season at Ohio State after starting his career at Oregon State. He finished ninth at the Big Ten Championships last season and has three Top 10 finishes to his credit.
“He’s got tremendous potential,” Brown Said. “He has a first class game as far as hitting the ball.”
“The experience he gained last year will help him,” Brown said. “He’ll be a really solid first or second man for us.”
David Wagenseller (So., Wilmington, Ohio) returns after a freshman campaign in which he finished third on the team in scoring average. He competed in all but one tournament a year ago. What makes his season even more remarkable is he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease last February, but Wagenseller played through his chemotherapy treatments and made strong contributions to the team.
“He’s got really good potential and a good game,” Brown said. “We’re just hoping everything works out healthwise. I’m not worried about the golf with him because he’s one of the hardest workers on the team. If his health is all right he’ll definately be a factor on our team, in the Big Ten and even nationally.”
Mike Austin (Jr., Burton, Mich.) enters this season hoping to return to the form that gained him all-Big Ten honors after his freshman year.
Austin struggled last season, but Brown believes he’ll bounce back this year.
“He played better this summer and he’s excited about it,” Brown said. “He should come back, hopefully with a vengance, and play really well for us.”
Ryan Dennis (So., Stow, Ohio) played in seven tournaments, including the final six, as a freshman last season. He was fourth on the team in scoring average and will be counted on to contribute again.
Juniors Scott Miller (Jr., Middletown, Ohio) and Jeff Olson (Dublin, Ohio/Robert Morris College) and sophomores Noah Lucus (So., Worthington, Ohio) and Jason Oien (So., Westerville, Ohio) also will be in the picture for playing time.
“Jason Oien will be a factor and if Noah Lucus can play up to his potential he will contribute,” Brown said.
Newcomers Will Push for Playing Time
Justin Collins (Fr. Ironton, Ohio)comes to Ohio State after one of the most decorated careers in Ohio high school golf history. He won the high school state championship as a junior and tied for the title as a senior. Collins joined Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to win three consecutive Ohio Junior Championships and was a four-time first-team all-state selection. “He was the best player in Ohio and one of the Top 20 in the country,” Brown said. “We look for him to come in and contribute immediately.”
Brian Williams (Fr., Skaneateles, N.Y.) joins Collins in the freshman class this season. Brown said Williams was one of the top three or four players inthe state of New York last season and could be a factor this year.
Doug Wade (So., Lima, Ohio) and Scott Smith (Fr., Charolette, N.C.) come to the Buckeyes as transfers from ACC schools.
Wade played as a freshman at Maryland two years ago and redshirted last year for the Terrapins. He was a three-time all-state selection at Lima Central Catholic.
“He has shot some good scores in college golf and just wanted a chance to play,” Brown said. Smith will be a freshman for the Buckeyes after redshirting at North Carolina last season. Brown said he was the best player in Charlotte, N.C. two years ago.
Buckeyes Look to Recapture Title
The Buckeyes will be striving to get back to the top of the Big Ten standings this season, but it won’t be an easy task.
Northwestern won the conference championship last season and placed third at the NCAA Championships.
“They have their whole group back and we’ll play them three or four times this year,” Brown said.
Included in that group is Luke Donald, who was the NCAA individual champion last season and was given the 1999 Jack Nicklaus Award as the country’s top collegiate golfer by the Golf Coaches Association of America.
Minnesota should also be in contention this year after finishing just three shots behind Northwestern at the Big Ten Championships last season. “After those two, we’re right there in the top three,” Brown said. “The Big Ten is getting better and better. A lot of new, young coaches are coming in and being aggressive.” It will be a tough race for the Big Ten Championship this year, but the Buckeyes should be right in the thick of things this season. “With what we have coming back and who we’ve added we should be a lot better than we were last year,” Brown said.