Men's Golf Set For Fall Season
Sept. 9, 2011
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
Coming off its second NCAA Regionals appearance in four years, the 2011-12 Memphis men's golf team is ready for action this fall with high expectations. The Tigers will rely on seven returning letterwinners, two redshirt freshmen and two talented additions to achieve success in a competitive collegiate golf landscape.
"We had a really good year last year and made the NCAA Regionals, but this year our goal is to get to Los Angeles and play in the NCAA Finals," said Memphis head coach Grant Robbins. "Our guys have stayed competitive over the summer and enter this fall ready to go."
The summer was indeed a busy time for several Tiger golfers, including senior Jonathan Fly and junior Steve Lee. Coming off a spectacular junior season in which he won the Conference USA Championship and set the Memphis record for season stroke average at 71.9, Fly won the qualifier at TPC Southwind to earn a spot at the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship. Teammate Lee, who was third on the team in stroke average last year, also qualified for the U.S. Amateur after finishing third at Southwind and made an appearance in the PGA Tour's FedEx St. Jude Classic earlier in the summer. Both players will be expected to use their experience to contribute on the course for the Tigers.
"Qualifying for the U.S. Amateur is very special," said Robbins. "The best amateurs in the world play in that event. Those experiences are really going to help propel these guys this year."
In addition to Lee and Fly, several other Tiger golfers will also be counted on to build on their recent successes. Junior Kody Alexander, another Memphis golfer who gained valuable experience over the summer having won the Irvin Cobb Championship, joins fellow returning letterwinners Jack Belote, Lexus Keoninh, Grant Milner and Carlson Cox to round out an experienced returning Tiger squad. Belote was second on the team last year with a 72.7 stroke average and won the Mason Rudolph Championship, one of 10 top-20 finishes for the senior. Milner was one of only three Tigers to compete in every event last year, along with Fly and Lee, and finished the season with a 74.1 stroke average. Redshirt freshmen Cory Gaylord and Alex Hoffman are also now ready to contribute after learning the ropes last year.
"I think one thing that hurt us a little bit at Regionals last year was that we didn't really have a lot of experience playing on that big of a stage," said Robbins. "We asked them to stay competitive in the summer so that when they come here in the fall, they're pretty seasoned. The more these guys get in those situations and play in these big tournaments, the more comfortable they're going to be the next time we're in the Regionals. And hopefully we'll then be able to advance to Nationals."
Robbins also hopes to rely on the talents of two newcomers to help the Tigers achieve their goals. Local product John Luke Tyner, who was ranked the top golfer in the state as a senior, joins the Memphis program out of Collierville, Tenn., while Erwan Vieilledent comes to Memphis from France by way of Shorter University, an NAIA program in Rome, Ga.
"We're a very veteran group, but we do have a couple newcomers that are going to push for a spot and help our depth," said Robbins. "John Luke Tyner is a very competitive player who has the ability to shoot a lot of low scores. Erwan Vieilledent is also a very talented player so we'll look for him to contribute as well."
The Tigers will get the season started on Monday at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate hosted by Southern Mississippi, one of four fall tournaments Memphis will compete in. The Tigers finished ninth in the Sam Hall last year and tied for second in 2009.
"This will be our third year at Hattiesburg Country Club so our players are all familiar with the course," said Robbins. "We played well there a couple years ago but didn't play as well last year so this year we're looking to go down there and hopefully get a win."
Robbins expects it will be just the first of many victories for the Tigers this season.