User ID: Password:

March 16, 2010

A DIFFERENT APPROACH - The golf team used its practice facility to prepare for the 2010 spring season because of lousy weather, and with Drew Weaver now gone, the Hokies plan on using the team approach to return to the NCAAs

By: Jimmy Robertson

Marshall Bailey

As the Virginia Tech golf team prepared to leave Blacksburg for its first tournament of the spring, the Hokies could only gaze at their home course, shake their heads and wonder who decided to transform it into a cross country skiing venue.

After all, a solid base of roughly a foot of snow, perhaps more in some spots, blanketed the course, with snow showers falling seemingly on a daily basis.

Heck, even the cart path down the small cliff leading to the course resembled a luge track.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Tech golf coach Jay Hardwick said. “We’ve missed more days of playing [practice rounds] this year than in my 26 previous years combined.”

Tech opened the 2010 spring season with just two practice rounds outside before making its annual trip to Puerto Rico to play in the prestigious Puerto Rico Classic. The Hokies finished 12th out of 15 teams in a stacked field.

The tournament marked the spring beginning of life AD – After Drew, as in Drew Weaver, the immensely talented golfer who departed after four years of fine play for the Hokies.

Weaver, as most know, burst onto golf’s national scene when he stunned everyone by winning the British Amateur in 2007, and as a result of that win, playing in the Open Championship later that summer and the Masters in 2008. He represented the university with aplomb, earning All-America honors for his exploits on the course and in the classroom during his career. As a senior, he led the Hokies to the NCAA regionals and finished in the top 20 in nine of the team’s 11 overall events.

Tech’s golf team has been taking advantage of its practice facility because of the cold, snowy weather that limited on-course practices in January and February.

“Obviously, it [the Puerto Rico Classic] was different because with Drew, and even Jurrian [van der Vaart] the year before, you always had a go-to guy,” Hardwick said. “You always knew that number was going to be there.

“Our kids really stepped up this fall, though. We had three kids average better than we’ve had three players average since Brendon [de Jonge] and Johnson [Wagner] were on the team. We played really well. We didn’t finish outside of seventh place in any event. The rankings of the fall tournaments just came out and the tournaments we played in were ranked sixth, seventh, 10th and 16th in terms of strength of field.

“We had three players average 73 or better, which is really strong. You get four players averaging that and you’re in the top 10 in the country.”

As it stood, Tech entered the spring ranked No. 32 in the nation by Golfstat, Inc.

Marshall Bailey and Garland Green, both juniors, and freshman Mikey Moyers paced the Hokies in the fall. Bailey shot par or better in seven of his 11 rounds, finishing the fall with a 72 average. Green shot par or better in six of 11 rounds and had a stroke average of 72.8. Moyers recorded a stroke average of 73, with four rounds of par or better.

Bailey finished in the top 20 in three events, while Moyers recorded two top-20 finishes – one in the top five. Green also recorded a top-five finish.

The three of them contrast each other nicely. Bailey possesses a sweet short game and a consistency to match. Green is the longest hitter of the bunch, and Moyers displays the biggest repertoire of shots.

“They’re totally different,” Hardwick said. “Marshall is a player who is very steady and manages a course really well. He’s always had a real fine short game. That allows him to salvage any poor ball-striking days. Players with good short games are never going to shoot but so high.

The Hokies will be counting on junior Garland Green to provide scoring and leadership this spring.

“Garland, there are times, with his length, that he can overpower a course, and when he does, that’s when he’s effective. There are also times when that same attribute is a negative. He’s more apt to hit a wayward shot because of his length and that becomes a lot more penal. He’s got an ability to shoot lower rounds because of his ability to reach par-5’s, but he also has the ability to shoot higher rounds than Marshall.

“Mikey has an unbelievable repertoire of shots for a freshman and can shoot low numbers. A lot of times, junior golfers get it a couple of shots under par and then they get protective, playing not to lose. That’s not the case with him. If he gets it 2-under, he’s thinking 3-under. He’s got a different mindset. If he keeps himself healthy and does the things he needs to do academically, which is something that every student-athlete must do, then I think he may rival the best players we’ve had here.”

The trio ranks among the top 151 players in golf among the more than 2,000 ranked by Golfstat. Bailey was ranked 64th at the start of the spring season, while Garland came in at 140th and Moyers at 151st.

Aaron Eckstein, Blake Redmond and Jacob Everts bring talent to the team as well. Eckstein, a junior, serves as the team captain and he finished with a stroke average of 75.6 in 11 rounds this fall. Redmond recorded a top-five finish at the VCU Shootout and showed improvement over last year. Everts, a freshman, unfortunately struggled some in the fall, mainly because of a thyroid issue. But the doctors have him straightened out and he looks to capitalize on the potential that made him a top recruit.

Though only a freshman, Mikey Moyers has already established himself as one of Tech’s top golfers.

Marc MacDonald, the brother of former Hokie Nick MacDonald, rounds out the seven-member squad. The freshman from Zimbabwe will redshirt this season and start play next season with Bryce Chalkley, a prized recruit from Richmond who ranks as one of the top 60 prospects in the nation.

The Hokies again play a tough schedule, starting with the tournament in Puerto Rico. They also participate in the Pinehurst Intercollegiate, Furman Intercollegiate, the Augusta State Invitational and the Wolfpack Intercollegiate before the ACC Championships held in New London, N.C. The ACC – which had nine of 11 teams make the NCAAs last spring – again features the top programs in the country, with nine teams ranked among the top 42 nationally according to Golfstat.

“It’s one of the best,” Hardwick said of the ACC. “Year in and year out, the ACC and SEC are in a class by themselves. We had nine teams in the NCAA last year out of 11. That’s pretty amazing, and at one time, we had five ranked in the top 20. We’ve got nine teams ranked in the top 42 in the country right now and eight in the top 33.

“I think it’s wonderful. I love being in the conference. Virginia Tech is going to be competitive wherever they are, and now that we’re in the ACC, we’re in, top to bottom, probably the best conference in America.”

If the Hokies fare well this season, they’ll certainly credit the work they’ve put in at their practice facility at the Pete Dye River Course. The snowy conditions forced them to use their state-of-the-art facility, and that facility enabled them to hone their skills during a time when many other golf programs around the nation had little or no options to work.

“It’s been a Godsend for us,” said Hardwick, who noted that the new clubhouse at the course should be finished by the end of March. “We’ve got over 14,000 range balls out there in the snow and we’re just about out. But we have not missed practice.

“We like to use our covered tees, which are outdoors, simply because everyone can hit at the same time. We can have a more effective practice. But because of the weather and the coldness, we’ve used our indoor hitting bays a lot, too. We’ve set up putting tracks in our team room. We’re doing everything we can to keep a golf club in their hands.

“We’re really fortunate to have that facility. It’s given us an opportunity. The difference is you’re not playing golf. You’re making a lot of swings, but playing is what’s important.”

One thing is certain, though – Tech’s seven-time conference coach of the year and Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Famer isn’t about to make the weather an excuse for himself or his team.

“I don’t look at it as an excuse,” he said. “I look at it as an incentive. How good are you? How much can you focus? How much have we accomplished indoors? We’ll find out.”

To veiw the full golf schedule for this season click here!