Golf committed to capturing conference crown this season

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.
Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

The word “committed” adorns the backs of the Marquette men’s golf team’s new workout shirts, representing the squad’s overarching theme for the 2013-14 season.

Sophomore Nick Nelson said the team will focus on capturing a Big East Tournament title, a feat last accomplished by the Golden Eagles in 2008.

“Commitment can mean a range of things, but in our case it means everything we do, even if it’s just little things,” Nelson said. “Winning the (Big East) has only been done once as far as Marquette history goes, so we’d really like to accomplish that. We think it’s a reachable goal.”

The campaign begins this weekend as the Golden Eagles travel to Farmingdale, N.Y., for the Doc Gimmler tournament at Bethpage Red Golf Course.

Marquette assembled its opening five-man roster based on a series of qualifiers made up of six and a half rounds of golf over two weeks. Several rounds were played at Erin Hills, the future site of the 2017 U.S. Open.

Coach Steve Bailey described the Erin Hills experience as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and viewed it as a retreat with an emphasis on unity.

“We’re trying to incorporate this team concept where (new players) haven’t done that,” Bailey said. “It’s kind of counter-intuitive to what these guys are used to as junior players. They get here to Marquette and we’re bringing them in as a group and having them buy into a system.”

Bailey said the play of freshman Henry Klongland stood out to him. The Stoughton, Wis., native won the first series of qualifiers thanks in part to an even-par round at Erin Hills from 7400 yards. Sophomore CJ Swift also impressed, winning the second qualifier coming off a redshirt year.

Klongland will make his Marquette debut at the Doc Gimmler along with junior Brandon Cloete, a transfer from Arizona State. Senior Corey Konieczki, Swift and sophomore Pat Sanchez round out Marquette’s squad, while Nelson will compete as an individual.

Bailey, entering his fourth year as head coach, has consistently stressed improvement in his team’s short game and that won’t change this season.

“You watch these PGA tour events on the weekends, and it’s a pretty common theme that the guy holding up the check at the end made his putts that week,” Bailey said. “Even on days when you’re not hitting so well, you can turn that 76 into a 74. It might not seem like much, but those two shots could lead to a victory over another team.”

While conference realignment hasn’t affected Marquette’s regular season schedule, Bailey said each tournament will ultimately prepare the Golden Eagles for the Big East Championship. With that goal in mind, Bailey believes success will come from remaining committed on a day-to-day basis.

“The other phrase we use is to ‘win the day,’” Bailey said. “For us to be successful as a program, we need to make a commitment and focus our efforts on doing that every day in everything from workouts to performance in the classroom.”