Valparaiso’s men’s golf team returns to the links this fall for the first time under new head coach Dave Gring, looking for continued improvement in just the third season since the program was resurrected.
Gring inherits a roster with seven returnees from last year’s squad which finished seventh in the spring at the Horizon League Championships, just a matter of strokes away from a top half finish in the conference. The Crusaders also have added a pair of freshmen to the squad with the hopes of competing near the top each week throughout the season.
A pair of sophomores led the way for the Brown and Gold last year in their rookie seasons, and will hope to again pace the Crusaders throughout this year. Kyle Henning posted Valpo’s top stroke average in 2010-2011 at 76.5 and earned a pair of top-five finishes. He carded three rounds under par, including a season’s best 69 late last fall. Thomas Wettstein averaged 76.8 for the Crusaders as a freshman and led the Brown and Gold with three top-10 finishes. Wettstein was under par four times on the year, carding a pair of 69s to share the team’s low round of the year.
Junior Austin Gaugert has averaged 77.2 strokes per round each of his first two seasons at Valpo and leads a talented junior class. He holds the modern day school record at Valpo shooting a 67 as a freshman. Josh Kalita and Brad Winters both posted 77.7 stroke averages a year ago, and both will look to add more contributions this year to the Crusader lineup. Kalita has played 51 career collegiate rounds, more than any other player on the Valpo roster, so his tournament experience will go a long way towards the team’s success. Winters, a redshirt-junior, finished with three sub-par rounds in 2010-2011, sharing the team’s low score of 69.
Andy Webb, another junior, seemed to get stronger as the spring went along, leading Valpo at the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational while also finishing second on the squad at the Butler Spring Invitational. He shaved nearly a full stroke off of his freshman year average to finish at 79.3 a year ago. The final Crusader junior, Andrew Beischel, appeared in just one event as a sophomore, but played 15 total rounds during his rookie season. He also looks to make more of an impact in 2011-2012.
Both of Valpo’s freshmen are talented players and will look to break into the Crusader lineup early in the year. Joe Harris was a four-time All-State selection in Iowa, twice earning First Team accolades at Washington High School. He was the Southeast Iowa Conference champion as a junior for the Demons. Eric Winters also joins the roster this season. He posted a top-20 finish in the 2010 Illinois State Junior Amateur.
The Crusaders will play four times this fall beginning in East Lansing, Mich. at Michigan State’s Fossum Invitational on Sept. 3 and 4. Two weeks later Valpo heads to Kentucky for the UK Bluegrass Invitational. The Brown and Gold also has fall events at Butler and Dayton this season.
With several challenging events on the horizon, a talented group of players, and a new head coach, Valparaiso looks for an exciting fall on the golf course.