Golfers hoping to improve upon rocky season

By Bryan Chouinard, Asst. Sports Editor

Coming off a season coach Randall McCracken described as “disappointing,” the U men’s golf team will look to rebound in 2009-2010 from when the team finished last at the conference championship.

“For us to finish dead last in conference is obviously not acceptable,” McCracken said. “It’s just atrocious.”

After graduating a veteran group in 2008 comprised of Nick Larson, Dustin Pimm, Nick Carter and now assistant coach Chris Gresh, McCracken was left with only one player with substantial traveling experience8212;senior Chance Cota.

Cota, who was the lone upperclassman on the roster last season and the team’s perpetual No. 1, led a team of freshmen and sophomores who struggled to adjust to traveling and competing at the college level.

“Being the one senior, Chance played a very important role for us last year,” McCracken said. “He was the guy that set the example, not only in his tournament play but at practice and off the course as well.”

But with a season of traveling and competing under their belts, there are high expectations for the group of juniors and sophomores for the upcoming season. WithCota graduated, McCracken’s squad will be compiled of four juniors, four soph omores and a lone freshman.

Although some would still consider this a young group, McCracken has made it clear that inexperience will no longer be an excuse for any poor performances.

“Last year we were really young, but not anymore,” he said. “We’re made up of juniors and sophomores this year and that’s not young. So it’s time to get down to business and do what we know best, and that’s play good golf.”

With no seniors on this year’s roster and no clear-cut No. 1, McCracken will look to a group of experienced juniors to lead his team. Derek Adams, Chase Hite and Jeff Kitches all gained valuable experience last season and will be expected to make up the core of a team that McCracken thinks can be successful.

“I’ve got three guys I’m going to be heavily reliant on,” he said. “They’re our most consistent players as older players, but with that said, I’m expecting a lot out of Kaleb Mahanes and Joe Webber as well.”

Mahanes and Webber both traveled frequently in their first season with Utah and although McCracken said the duo had a promising first year with the team, expectations will be much higher as the two enter their sophomore campaign with the Utes.

“If we can get some good play out of Joe and Kaleb and the consistency we need out of Derek, Chase and Jeff, we’ll have a pretty good core of guys,” he said.

Although it might be tough battling the cold winters of Salt Lake City and competing in the Mountain West Conference with perennial powerhouses such as San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico, McCracken said if his current group can play to its potential, there’s no reason why the conference championship should be out of reach.

“Are we going to win the conference championship?” McCracken said. “We definitely have that potential. Is it going to be on a regular basis? Probably not. But should we contend for this conference’s championship year in and year out? Absolutely.”

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