Long winter layover proves tough to unthaw for U golfers

The U men’s golf program came into this season full of high expectations. Without any meaningful graduations last year, the team was returning every key golfer from the successful campaign of 2002-2003, which included two team victories.

This year, however, the golf team has not seen as much success-particularly this spring season. In the team’s first three tournaments of 2004, its best finish has been sixth in a field of 14 schools at the Steve Kerr Invitational last week in Buckeye, Ariz.

The Utes recorded a seventh place finish with a 71-over-par team score at a tournament in Riverside, Calif., earlier this month, but the team’s worst outing of the spring, and probably of the year, was at the Braveheart Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. At that tournament, the Utes finished a lowly 18th in a field of 22 schools.

Searching for answers, the team’s coach, Wayne Fisher, was quick to blame the long, snowy winter.

“It’s just been a lack of play,” Fisher said. “It was one of the longest winters in a long time, and when you can’t play, you can’t compete.”

“Our guys hadn’t been on a golf course for such a long time,” Fisher continued. “We’ve been hitting into the snow, we’ve been hitting into the nets and doing everything we can. But when you can’t putt and chip and do the things that you normally do on a golf course, it can be really hard to get it back.”

The team’s top golfer, senior Garrett Clegg, agreed with his coaches’ assessment of the difficulty of winter preparation for the golfers.

“It was a tough winter and I don’t think any of us have really recovered,” Clegg said. “None of us have come out with our best game and there’s no question that we’ve struggled. We’re not where we’d like to be by any means.”

After a tough start to the spring season, the Utes find themselves now as the eighth-ranked team in a district that qualifies six teams automatically for the regional tournament at the end of the spring.

“We’re right on the bubble,” Fisher said. “The top six teams receive automatic bids and last year our district was given a seventh, so we’re right there.”

“Our strength of schedule probably hasn’t been strong enough to get in as the eighth team,” he continued. “But you never know.”

Remaining confident in his team’s chances for a position at the regionals, Clegg made it clear that he and his teammates would have to step it up a notch if they were going to accomplish their goals.

“We’ll be all right,” Clegg said. “We still have a good shot at making the regionals.”

“But we need to win a tournament and finish in the top three at the others,” Clegg continued. “We have to step up now, and that goes for everyone. We have to just forget the slow start, suck it up and finish strong.”

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