The Valparaiso University men’s golf team hopes to take the department-wide mantra of “Champions in Competition” and “Champions in Classroom” to a whole new level this season.
The Crusaders exemplified “Champions in Classroom” in the most literal sense possible in 2016, when they were honored by the Golf Coaches Association of America for posting the top grade point average of all Division I programs. The 11-man roster produced a team GPA of 3.755 for the 2015-16 academic year.
During the 2013 season, the Crusaders were champions in competition, winning the Horizon League Championship and reaching the NCAA Regionals. This season, the Crusaders hope to come out on top, both academically and athletically.
“This year we have an opportunity to win both the Horizon League Championship and the national academic championship,” Valpo head coach Dave Gring said. “I don’t know if that’s happened before in any sport. We’ve done both of those before, and we feel that we can achieve those goals. They’re very realistic.”
Valpo’s third goal is to win at least one of its seven regular season tournaments.
“There’s certainly great enthusiasm on the part of myself and the guys on the team,” Gring said. “There’s always great energy going into the spring coming off the winter months and having the fall season under our belts.”
The Crusaders welcome senior Nick Seitz (Xenia, Ohio / Carroll) back to the lineup after he missed the entire fall season due to injury. Seitz is a two-time all-league honoree and was named Team MVP his sophomore season.
“We’re really looking forward to having him back in the lineup,” Gring said. “We missed him for all of 2016, the spring and this year’s fall season. He only played in one tournament the whole calendar year. He’s really worked hard in his rehab and workouts. He’s in great shape. We’re looking forward to his presence in our lineup.”
Junior Zach Cutler (O’Fallon, Mo. / Timberland) and sophomore Mitchell Wittmann (Kaukauna, Wis. / Kaukauna) have both made considerable leaps during the fall. They’re shooting two to 2 ½ strokes better than they were a year ago. Cutler was second on the team with a 74.38 average during the fall, while Wittmann ranked third at 75.94.
The team leader during the fall season and Valpo’s No. 1 golfer is senior Peter Webb (Madison, Wis. / James Madison Memorial). He averaged a 74.06 during the fall after postseason a team-leading 73.61 last season. Webb joins Seitz as one of Valpo’s two captains.
“Peter is a model of consistency for us,” Gring said. “He’s very steady and can go low at any time. He could have a great spring. He’s a great leader for us.”
The weather has cooperated with the Crusaders, who have practiced outside six to eight times since returning from Christmas Break at either Aberdeen or Creekside.
“This is my sixth year coaching, and we’ve never had this much outdoor practice,” Gring said. “The guys are really looking forward to competing and playing. The mild weather has been very beneficial for us.”
The Crusaders tee off the first meet of the season on Monday in Savannah, Ga. as they compete in The Invitational at Savannah Harbor.
“We have seven events, and they’re all terrific,” Gring said. “You encompass teams from all around the country, which is really cool. We’re really looking forward to each one of them. They all have their purpose on our schedule.”