March 4, 2009
Led by senior all-American Mike Van Sickle, the Marquette University men's golf team is poised to defend its 2008 BIG EAST Conference championship. Despite the loss of three graduated players, head coach Tim Grogan has his squad performing at arguably a higher level heading into 2009 than last spring's memorable title run.
Gone was the experience of veteran players like Michael Bielawski and Ted Gray (Both were All-BIG EAST performers and Gray was the 2008 BIG EAST medalist), who combined to play a total of 266 career rounds, along with the services of fellow 2008 senior Chris Streff, co-recipient of the Ralph H. Metcalfe Senior Leadership and Service Award.
Despite the losses of such talent, Marquette's team scoring average this past fall was a steady 289.73 -- over three strokes better than last year's cumulative team average (292.83), which went on record as the the lowest single-season average in school history.
Furthermore, MU was ranked as high as No. 15 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index ratings following a sixth-place finish at the Gopher Invitational, proving the Golden Eagles have continued to match up well statistically in head-to-head competition.
Grogan will again depend heavily on the leadership of Van Sickle, who already owns a school-record 10 collegiate victories, and former conference champion Dustin Schwab, who is now in his third season with the Golden Eagles' varsity squad.
Winner of four out of six tournaments this past fall, Van Sickle has emerged as a national player of the year candidate according to a majority of the country's top collegiate golf writers. Van Sickle's stock has soared since closing out the fall 2008 campaign by winning the prestigious Western Refining College All-America Classic in El Paso, Texas, in November, and he was recently named as a finalist for The Ben Hogan Award.
Van Sickle moved up to No. 4 in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking (second highest ranked amateur in the United States). He was ranked as high as No. 6 in the United States, according to the Golfweek Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking, and enters the spring season No. 2 in the Golfstat Cup rankings which ranks the top players in NCAA Division I.
One of 10 players selected to Golfweek's Preseason All-America team and one of 12 collegiate golfers named to the Golf World Midseason All-America squad, Van Sickle's 91 birdies led the nation last fall and his 69.28 scoring average also was among the best. He opened his senior season with a victory at the Gopher Invitational and also won at the Xavier Invitational and the Stockton Sports Commission Pacific Invitational, sparking a winning streak that stands at three entering 2009.
Schwab, who captured Lake Michigan Conference medalist honors as a freshman at Edgewood College (NCAA Division III) before transferring to Marquette, posted his best finish finish of the fall season at the Gopher Invitational where he tied for 11th place.
In 26 collegiate tournaments, Schwab has scored under par in nine rounds. His scoring average (74.60) through five fall events in 2008 is down nearly two strokes from his junior season. During the summer, Schwab performed well enough to finish runner-up in the Wisconsin State Golf Association (WSGA) men's amateur player of the year standings. He won the WSGA Match Play Championship in June and the Dairyland Open in September.
Sophomore Kelly Kretz also enjoyed some success on the amateur circuit. Kretz, who placed third in the WSGA men's player of the year standings, qualified for the 2008 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in Aurora, Colo., where he advanced to the round of 16 by knocking of off some of the nation's top amateurs in the match play portion of the event.
Kretz has put together some impressive numbers during young collegiate career. His career scoring average of 74.90 entering of the spring season ranks fourth all-time at Marquette. Although he has struggled with consistency -- particularly off of the tee -- Kretz remains as one of MU's most promising young talents and one of its longest hitters.
Kretz has posted three top-10 finishes in his career, but not since his freshman season. A fresh start this spring could help turn Kretz into the difference-maker the Golden Eagles need to be considered a legitimate contender in the BIG EAST.
Sophomore Ben Sieg and freshman Matt Haase, who both red-shirted last season, have been asked fill the void left by Gray and Bielawski and therefore were able to garner some valuable experience as fixtures in Grogan's lineup in the fall.
Haase tied for 18th place in his first collegiate event at the Cardinal Intercollegiate, hosted by Louisville, in September. His 72.67 scoring average after four fall events is second on the team only to Van Sickle and Haase has recorded four rounds under par in his 12 rounds played.
Sieg won the BIG EAST/MAC Challenge in 2006-07, making him one of two active MU players (Van Sickle) to win a collegiate event. His 2008 fall season was highlighted by a a hole-in-one on the 192-yard, par-3 hole four at the Spring Hill Country Club in Wayzata, Minn. Sieg was one of three MU players to start in each of the team's five events. Although he posted three rounds that were below par, Sieg has not broken 70 since his lone tournament victory as a freshman.
Junior Mike McDonald played just one event (Gopher Invitational) this past fall but, with seven tournaments and a combined total of 19 collegiate rounds played, remains a viable option for Grogan heading into the 2009 season. McDonald continues his perseverance for a regular starting spot and may get that chance particularly since Marquette has not quite solidified its No. 5 spot after a series of inconsistent performances in the fall.
Likely to sit out the spring season and retain there red-shirt status are freshmen Sammy Bettinardi and Ryan Prickette. Bettinardi was the Illinois Junior Golf Association's (IJGA) Junior Boys Player of the Year in 2006 and was named the Senior Boys runner-up in 2007 and 2008. Prickette, an all-state performer and three-time conference player of the year, finished runner-up to current MU teammate Matt Haase for the Wisconsin Junior Player of the Year in 2007 and was third runner-up for the award in 2008.
2009 Spring Schedule
Marquette will begin the 2009 slate where it ends -- at the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club in Dade City, Fla., site of the Ron Smith/USF Invitational (March 6-8) and the BIG EAST Championship (April 19-22). In between stosp to Central Florida, the Golden Eagles will again play in the Pinehurst Intercollegiate, held March 15-17 in Pinehurst, N.C., followed by an appearance at the Spring Break Championship, hosted by Florida Atlantic University, at Gleneagles Country Club in Delray Beach, Fla. MU will also make a return trip to UNC Charlotte's Palisades Collegiate, April 13-14.
Link to 2008-09 Schedule/Results page