"And a child shall lead them" is the abiding mantra of this year's golf teams at the University of Minnesota, Morris, as the men's and women's squads field 2009 rosters loaded with younger players. The golf teams will have a busy September, full of back-to-back games, in preparation for the UMAC tournament in early October.
The Cougars' leading golfer from 2008, David Katz of St. Paul, returns for just his sophomore season. He will have valuable support from fellow sophomore Dane Kelly of Chaska, juniors Kyle Michel of South Haven and Josh Nyquist of Brooklyn Park, and seniors Sam Trojan of St. Paul and Nate West of St. Paul.
Three first-year players join the team this season, each bringing a solid all-around game to the lineup. They include Derek Dionne of Wahpeton, N.D., Austin Hewitt of Eagan, and Adam Hystead of Golden Valley.
In 2008, the Cougar men finished sixth in the UMAC, but head coach Mark Fohl says pre-season play indicates this year's team will be much-improved.
"Our goal is to have four guys who [score] in the 70s. If we can do that, we'll be very competitive," he says.
The women will return without Emma Schlosser who graduated in May. Behind her stellar play, the Cougars placed second in the UMAC last season.
Though the two-time all-conference player marks a big loss for the Cougars, head coach Jana Koehler says the new talent and returners will have a solid showing this fall.
Ashley Watson of Belle Fourche, S.D. and Julie Althoff of Mora are the leading returning scorers. Koehler says freshmen Caitlin Hanson of Rosemount, and Liana Sanders of St. Paul, expect to score well right from the first match.
Like the men's team, Koehler says the pre-season focuses on the short game.
"The women have spent long hours at the range working on their chipping and putting."
The unique factor of both the men's and women's seasons is that it's all one large prelude to the conference tournament in October. The invitationals and opens along the way are important, but really it's just one big practice session.
"We play a lot of competition rounds [in September] so we can work on our weaknesses," says Fohl. "We rotate platoons of golfers so everyone has a chance to test out their game, and then we adjust for the UMAC tournament."
The golf teams opened the 2009 season Sept. 7 in the Lee Park Invitational in Aberdeen, S.D. They host the Cougar Open on Sept. 17 at Pomme de Terre Golf Club in Morris. The UMAC season-ending tournament will be played in Alexandria on Oct. 2-3.