The chore of lugging around a 30-pound bag while playing 36 holes in a given day can take its toll physically but the game of golf demands an even greater mental strength.
UVU men’s golf head coach Chris Curran helps his players prepare for the cerebral rigors of the course by instilling in them the importance of academic excellence first and foremost.
“At the beginning of every season I tell our freshmen that by the time they are a junior or senior, I want them to be an Academic All-American,” said Curran.
In order to merit the academic honor, a player must be a junior or senior, have a scoring average below 76, play in at least 50 percent of team’s tournaments and maintain a 3.2 GPA. UVU men’s golf has produced two Academic All-Americans in its history.
“This year we have a really good shot to have three or four [Academic All-Americans],” Curran said.
Over the summer, UVU was named to the President’s Special Recognition list as one of only 10 men’s golf programs to have a team GPA of 3.5 or better. The priority of success in the classroom is followed by a disciplined concentration on the golf course. It is a characteristic of more experienced golfers, which the Wolverines have in abundance this year.
The team returns four players from last year’s squad, and features four upperclassmen. The lone senior, Stratton Schulz will be counted on as the vocal leader, but each returning player has the ability to lead in one way or another.
“Stratton is more of a verbal leader, he’s the one that can get the guys pumped up and ready to go,” Curran said. “A lot of the upperclassmen are leaders though. This will be my first year as head coach with more of a veteran team. These guys are leaders in different ways – on the golf course, in the classroom, verbally, and being there for the guys.”
Sophomore Corey Eccles returns after posting a 74.79 scoring average last year, the best average of any of the players on this year’s team.
“Corey isn’t a real verbal leader, but a leader by example,” Curran said. “He just goes out and plays good golf.”
Following Eccles on the list of returners from last year’s squad in terms of scoring average are junior Michael Dart who finished with an average of 75.00 and Stratton Schulz at 75.04. The Wolverines start the season in Victor, Idaho with the Battle in the Tetons on Sept. 2-3.
“We’ve had success there,” Curran said. “Two years ago we won the tournament and last year we finished third and actually should’ve been second if not for a score card violation. There are certain golf courses that just fit your team’s eye and this is one of them.”
Familiarity with specific courses and various opponents the Wolverines are scheduled to face also gives this veteran squad an advantage.
“We beat all of the current WAC members at some point in the season last year,” Curran said. “We feel like we’re going to have a good shot to go down and win [the conference championship] in order to move on to regionals as a team, which would be the first time.”
From Sept. 9-10 the Wolverines will be in Pullman, Wash. for the Itani Quality Homes Collegiate.