The first of 11 tournaments that will comprise the 2017-18 Valparaiso University men’s golf season will commence on Tuesday morning, as Valpo hosts the second annual Crusader Collegiate at Sand Creek Country Club.
The field for the season’s inaugural tournament features Loyola, Bradley and Wright State. It will give the Crusaders an early opportunity to see how they stack up against a pair of Missouri Valley Conference foes in Loyola and Bradley as they embark upon their first season in The Valley. The event gets going with two rounds on Tuesday before wrapping up with Round 3 on Wednesday.
“It’s exciting for our program to start the competitive season with hosting a tournament on our home course,” Valpo head coach Dave Gring said. “Sand Creek Country Club is in amazing shape and will provide a good challenge for all of the teams.”
After finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a 299.0 team scoring average – the second-best mark in program history – Valpo has a roster comprised of two seniors, one junior, three sophomores and three freshmen this year. The Crusaders have reloaded after graduating four seniors, including Peter Webb and Nick Seitz, who departed as two of the most accomplished golfers in program history.
Valpo’s starting lineup on Tuesday will feature a true combination of youth and experience as two seniors join forces with a trio of freshmen. Drew Alexander (McCordsville, Ind. / Hamilton Southeastern), Jack Juskow (Greenville, S.C. / Hamilton Southeastern) and Brett Seward (Aurora, Ill. / Aurora Christian) will make starts in their first collegiate tournament. They’ll be joined by a pair of proven individuals who are primed for their final collegiate campaigns – seniors Zach Cutler (O’Fallon, Mo. / Timberland) and Michael Doherty (Lisle, Ill. / Naperville North).
All nine Crusaders will participate in this week’s event, with Mitchell Wittmann (Kaukauna, Wis. / Kaukauna), Ross Lazar (Okemos, Mich. / Okemos), Matthew McCarthy (O’Fallon, Ill. / Althoff Catholic) and Jeremy Wu (Medford, Ore. / St. Mary’s) entered as individuals.
“Our players are ready to compete coming off a full summer of playing on their own in a variety of amateur tournaments,” Gring said. “I’ve been pleased with our qualifying scores over the last two weeks since returning to school. We have been practicing a lot of short game and balancing in a good amount of playing time to prepare for our fall season.”
Valpo’s top returning scorer is Cutler, who posted a 76.29 scoring average a year ago and has a 76.83 average for his Valpo career. Cutler’s current career average ranks eighth in program history. He had a strong showing at last year’s Crusader Collegiate, helping Valpo finish as the team runner-up by going one under par, just one shot back of the individual champion.
The Crusaders will have a chance to compete against Wright State again after finishing just three strokes behind the Raiders in the 2017 Horizon League Championship. Bradley is the defending champion of the event after edging the Crusaders for last year’s title. The Raiders finished third a year ago, while the Ramblers are a first-time participant.
During Gring’s coaching tenure, the Crusaders have prided themselves on thriving both on the course – where they’ve had great success highlighted by an NCAA Regional appearance in 2013 – and in the classroom, where they’ve received President’s Special Recognition (team GPA of 3.5 or better) six straight years and finished with the nation’s highest GPA in 2015-16.
This week’s tournament marks the first of five fall events with six more to come in the spring. The season culminates with the Missouri Valley Conference Championship April 23-24 in Cape Girardeau, Mo.