The University of Richmond men's golf team started its 2008-09 season strongly, with two top-five finishes during its first four non-conference tournaments, and continued its success to start the spring season.
The team, whose year-long schedule includes nine tournaments, also placed fifth out of 12 during the Liberty Invitational on Oct. 8 and third during the Georgetown Hoya Invitational on Oct. 21. Junior Robert Lindstrom played an important role in the team's success, helping the team finish third overall in the tournament by finishing third himself, just two shots off of first place.
Lindstrom, who said he would be looking to build on his fall finish by taking this momentum into the 2009 spring tournaments, did just that. He ended the first day of the Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate, Feb. 23 to 24, in third place, just three shots off the lead. Sophomore Michael Shrader was in eighth.
By the end of their first spring tournament, Shrader became the leading Spider. He finished third at 4-over-par, while Lindstrom ended the tournament in fifth position, his second-straight top-five finish of the season. Senior Tim Courtney tied for 29th, senior Lawrence Lessing tied for 39th and sophomore Sam Beach tied for 23rd, helping the team secure second place overall in the tournament out of 12 teams.
Decker said he was pleased with the team's start to the season because the golf course was very narrow, with lots of hazards and out of bounds to negotiate. The team had to endure 10 straight hours of golf in 15-20 mph winds, but played well, Decker said.
"Robert continues to be a consistent performer for us," he said. "If he works hard in practice, he's going to have an outstanding spring."
Selecting the top five golfers for each match is always tough, but it keeps the team on its toes, Decker said. There is a lot of team rivalry during practice because each player wants one of the places on the traveling team. He said the traveling team could change for each tournament, which created a healthy dynamic among the team at practice.
"There are a number of different combinations that I have to think about when I choose the team," he said.
The team has to learn how to switch gears from competing against each other in practice for the traveling team, competing against the course at the tournament and then managing the course for the better of the team, Decker said.
Collegiate golf has its own crazy dynamic, Decker said. Although golf is an individual sport, collegiate golfers have to learn how to balance the competitive edge needed to succeed as a team with the desire for individual success -- a dynamic that Decker said was hard to maintain as a player and coach.
Decker said the Spiders would be challenged when they met the University of Rhode Island, Xavier University and the 2008 A-10 champions, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, during its conference tournaments. However, Lindstrom said the team was a lot deeper this year. He said he felt, for the first time since becoming a Spider, each golfer on the team had the potential to finish on top in all of the team's tournaments.
Lessing said the team was a good ball striking team, but that it would need to concentrate on its chipping, putting and course management during its tournaments. It is the team that can putt and chip well that ultimately comes out on top, Decker said.
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But, Decker said the teams the Spiders would play during the tournaments were not their main competitors.
"Our competition is the golf course," he said, "and so the more I can recreate a tournament round at practice, the better we will hopefully do."
Although many of the Spiders are familiar with the Marshall Invitational course, having played tournaments there during the last three seasons, the A-10 course the team would play on this year, Mission Inn Resort in Howey-In-The-Hills, Fla., just outside Orlando, is brand new, he said. Decker said he would encourage his golfers to stick to what they knew. It is easy in a tournament to get caught taking a risky shot a golfer would never normally play, he said.
Although the A-10 course is a new challenge for the Spiders, the team will be allowed to play a round on the course before the tournament starts. Decker and his team felt confident about an A-10 title, saying it was a goal they felt was realistic for them this year with the depth of the team.
Contact reporter Dani Pycroft at firstname.lastname@example.org
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