According to head coach Chris Curran, the men’s golf team didn’t need a change of game so much as a change of mind.
The adjustment already has results pouring in.
Led by senior Mason Casper and sophomore Stratton Schulz, UVU golf took first and second place at the Battle of the Tetons and the Palouse Collegiate, respectively. The finishes put UVU ahead of the likes of Washington State, Boise State, Wyoming and Utah State.
Curran credits the team’s newly found confidence, something he thought last year’s team, which finished 14th at Palouse, lacked.
“They don’t want to just show up and finish,” Curran said. “They truly believe they can show up to a golf tournament against anyone and go out and win. The biggest change is the mind-set that we can compete with anybody.”
The mental transition may well have started with Schultz’s offseason success. The Vernal, Utah, native advanced to the finals of the Utah State Pro Am championships as the second-lowest ranked seed, setting the team’s foundation to succeed under the weight of low expectations.
“That for [Schulz] individually was huge,” Curran said. “That gave him the confidence to compete not just with anyone in the state of Utah, but with anyone in the country.”
Casper made the same leap, starting the season with an individual first-place finish at the Tetons. His overall score 14-under-par not only gave him a commanding 10-stroke margin of victory, but helped lift UVU to the team’s eight-stroke victory.
For Curran, Casper’s emergence on the scorecard, and the subsequent confidence, is exactly what the doctor ordered.
“He pumps everybody up,” Curran said. “He’s able to give the guys the confidence and help them believe that they’re extremely good players. He definitely has embraced the leadership role.”
The rest of the team has followed suit. Schulz (16th) and seniors Joey Olson (10th) and Andrew Carlin (24th) ended among the top-25 at the Tetons, while freshmen Clark Frederickson and Michael Dart finished top-50.
The following week saw UVU start slow before catching fire in the final rounds, jumping from fifth to finish second overall. Casper went for a 68 on the par-71 course to finish fourth, with Carlin tying for 13th.
“I could tell last year our team had a whole bunch of talent, but we weren’t getting the most out of everybody that we could,” Curran said. “When the season started, it was a totally different feel. The guys came in with a whole bunch of confidence. They had that drive and that hunger that I think we kind of lacked last year.”
Despite the scorching start, Curran believes the Wolverines have yet to peak.
“Our best golf is still out there,” Curran said. “You fall into a lull after such a great start, but the guys really hav a whole lot more in the tank than what we’ve shown so far.”