The Valparaiso University men’s golf team will compete for a conference title for the first time since 1992 this spring after the Crusaders brought the program back to campus this past fall. First year head coach Mike Higdon has six freshmen on the roster that gained a great deal of experience during the fall season, and heading into the championship season that knowledge will be valuable as the Brown and Gold competes in the Horizon League.
“I am very optimistic about what the spring holds for us,” Higdon said. “The men’s team is a lot stronger heading into this spring season than we were about six months ago heading into the fall. Most of our players were not used to playing competitively during the fall season. Their high school seasons were traditionally in the spring so they were not mentally used to playing competitive year-round. Now, with a little break over the winter, they are prepared physically from the off-season workouts as well as mentally recharged.”
Austin Gaugert leads the Crusaders heading into the spring after posting a 76.7 stroke average during the fall campaign. He carded a low round of 73 in the fall, and was the team’s top finisher in a pair of tournaments. He also had a pair of top-10 finishes during his first collegiate season.
Adam Gray and Josh Kalita both turned in 79.0 averages during their first stretch of collegiate tournaments. Gray posted five scores of 77 or better in his nine rounds as a rookie, while posting a ninth place finish in his collegiate debut. Kalita carded a season-low 73 in the fall while earning a pair of top-five finishes, and was among Valpo’s top three finishers in all but one of the events.
Andy Webb and Andrew Beischel averaged 81.1 and 81.6 during the first half of the season with the Brown and Gold. Now that they have several collegiate tournaments under their belt, they will be looked upon to contribute even more heading into the spring campaign.
Brad Winters joined the Crusader roster midway through the fall and appeared in three events for the Brown and Gold. In his first appearance, a dual match against Chicago State, he finished runner-up for the event. He averaged 82.0 for the fall, but showed signs of promise after carding a 75 in the final round of the Butler Fall Invitational.
“The foundation is set with building the program,” Higdon added. “I am excited to watch our young men continuously develop over the next three-and-a-half years. Each season we will continue to get more and more competitive.”
Valpo’s spring schedule opens March 22-23 in Indianapolis at the Butler Spring Invitational before the Crusaders remain in the state the following weekend at the Ball State Cardinal Collegiate. The Brown and Gold will have a busy stretch from April 3-6, playing the first two days at the adidas Hoosier Invitational hosted by Indiana before heading to Tennessee for the Big Blue Intercollegiate hosted by Tennessee State. The final tournament before the league championships takes place in Detroit on April 16-17 with the Horizon League Championships slated for April 26-27 in Lexington, Ky.
“We have a very competitive schedule slated for us leading up to the Horizon League Championship,” concluded Higdon. “I am extremely proud of what the team accomplished last fall even though I know the men have a lot higher aspirations. The team was able to beat another Division I program in every tournament they played, and that is saying a lot for a team with no Division I experience prior to September.”
With every event in which the Crusaders participate, Valparaiso gets stronger as a team. With six first year players on the roster, and building a program from scratch, optimism is high for the Brown and Gold. Improvement can be seen on a weekly basis, and the Crusaders will look to continue that trend as the spring moves along.