“As I woke up this morning, I thought it was kind of funny I was going to talk today, and there was a little blanket of white out there. So hopefully it’ll (the weather) be decent. But for us, we came off of the fall season and did some, I think, some extraordinary things. And we carried some of that over to the spring. Maybe not as strong as I would have liked to have seen, but, we’re seeing some pretty good individual performances week in and week out.
“Last week, actually two weeks ago we were in Columbus, Ohio, which I thought was a pretty big tournament, Ohio State. Unfortunately, it got snowed out, and we found ourselves in Michigan State last week, and I don’t think we played particularly well. On Saturday, yesterday, I thought we played very, very well, and it was encouraging as we approached this week, which I know all the players and myself as well are extremely excited about.”
Jim, is there any advantage to playing at University Ridge?
“You know, you get that question a lot, and the answer is yes and no. Probably, depending upon the way you look at it, sometimes what you might assume is the advantage can sometimes work against you. You know, we play out there day in and day out, which leads you to believe we know the golf course very well and we do. And that’s a good thing.
“I think sometimes when you’re in a situation like we are, one of our goals was to get an invitation to play or to be qualified for the NCAA regional event, which is in a couple weeks. And we were in that group earlier in the year, and we are not in that group now. And what that means is that we are going to have to win this Big Ten event to get that bid.
“So how does that really pertain to playing at your home golf course? You know, we have to guard against the fact that we have expectations out there when we play there day in and day out, holes that, that we look out for, holes that we expect to birdie or play well. And I think if that doesn’t go your way, you have to keep that in check. You have to make sure that you don’t press that issue too much and really watch what you’re doing out there.
“The upside, yeah, we’re in our own beds and we’re eating in our own places, and we feel very, very comfortable here. So it is an advantage, and we just have to watch the other side of it, I think.”
Is consistency a big key for you this weekend? I mean, you’ve had some players shoot 73’s and 81’s, and it just seems like you’ve kind of been all over the map this spring. Just talk about how much you are looking for that.
“Well, I think everybody looks for it. I mean, that’s why you win and that’s why five guys play and you count four scores, is because it speaks just to that, how consistent are you, how many rounds can your four counters, put up there for you. How many guys can kind of stay that steady course, and that’s a trick for us. Not being as deep as some of the other teams are, as we continue to rebuild the program a little bit, you know, we find that.
“For us, when we look at consistency, we look to two young players, we look at a freshman and a sophomore, and that’s a difficult spot to put guys in there that are young. That obviously is going to pay off for us in the long run, no doubt. But, yeah, we need that.
“And like I said, everybody does, and it’s something that we’re going to have, have to have this week for us to be competitive or have a chance to win this event. It’s going to have to come from all five players. They’re going to have to contribute. You get back to playing at your home golf course, and that’s obviously a positive. But, you know, as we go through the year and have gone through the year, it’s interesting to watch.
“The guys, you know, there’s different kinds of pressure. There are players that have been ranked very high as individuals, and that weighs on them in certain ways, more so than it probably should. And so it’s tough. And like I said, the consistency is a big, big factor. To get five guys when you’re playing a 36-hole day to stay focused and compete for 11, 11-and-a-half hours, that’s a task for them. But, you know, I think all in all we’ve stepped up and done a pretty good job.
“I think too, you get caught up in the race and you get caught up in looking back, but you also have to look back and look at the good things that have happened too. You know, when we look back, my assistant coach reminded me, you know, we’re going to break the all-time history season scoring record here. Garrett Jones is going to also break the history individual scoring record here probably. And if he didn’t play on the team, Jeff Kaiser would break the all-time scoring record.
“So, you know, there’s a lot of great things happening and happening from some young players. I look for (senior) Kevin Tassistro to play pretty well. He’s a guy that stepped up for us in the Big Ten last year at Michigan. And he did some very, very good things last weekend. And so I look for big rounds out of him. Our transfer student, A.J. DeLawyer, and then obviously Brian Brodell has been here for his four years. And, so, everybody’s got a nice little mix there, and we need everybody to contribute, no doubt.”
Coach, if you could just touch on this a little bit, but having your two, I guess, best players be a freshman and a sophomore in Kaiser and Jones, and both being in-state guys, what does that say about the direction of the program? And do you foresee this program maybe becoming something like Minnesota where you can contend for Big Titles and NCAA titles with in-state talent?
“You know, that’s the goal. I didn’t take the job, and I know my assistant didn’t take the job just to say, hey, we want to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. But I do think it starts at home. And you look at a guy like a Jeff Kaiser who we got, and still feel he is the best player in the state of Wisconsin, coming out of that class.
“Garrett Jones was the same way. We feel things in the future are happening that way as well, and we need to establish that. And that’s what the plan was. So when we get our best players to stay, which I think are very, very good players, and you see that now as the golf season’s coming around and you’re seeing scores from kids throughout the state, are putting up some great scores and we’re happy to see that. And we’re going to continue along that road.”
What did your winter conditioning and things like that done for your young players like Kaiser and Jones, and just talk about the development of their games.
“Yeah. Jeff Kaiser came in, to start with him being a freshman, he came in with a pretty extensive junior resume. He played a lot of national events, and is no stranger to competition at a pretty high level. One of the things probably he had to adjust to a little bit more was conditioning program, that, you know, that you speak about.
“In season, we’re in the weight room and we’re in there running at least two days a week. When we’re out of season, we’re in there three days a week and then over in the dome and doing things like that. So a little bit more of a regimented schedule for a guy that comes in like that, a little bit of a different situation where he needs to learn to manage his time a little bit better, and he’s done an outstanding job of that.
“Garrett Jones, he’s a guy that when he came here, I kind of joke with him, I don’t think he probably weighed more than about 140 pounds soaking wet, and he needed to get stronger. He needed to get more flexible. And, you know, when we have the resources here and the people and the facilities to help players get better from a strength standpoint, from a mental standpoint, they’ve taken great advantage of that and it’s paying off for them and it’s showing.”
You played in West Lafayette. You were hoping to playing in Columbus. You played the Big Tens in Ann Arbor last year. Where does the Ridge stack up as far as home courses for other Big Ten schools?
“You know, it’s fantastic. And, I always get kidded about, you know, I speak to that question about keeping the best players here, and I always get kind of ribbed about leaving the state to go play at the University of Florida. But, I joke with the guys and I don’t joke with them in that we don’t realize how great of a facility we have in University Ridge.
“Now when you’re looking at a golf course that is continually amongst university golf courses ranked in the top 10 in the country, you know, that’s pretty unbelievable stuff. And then when you see publications like Golf Magazine and Golf Digest come out and rank University Ridge as one of the top five best courses in the state of Wisconsin, only to play second fiddle to Whistling Straits.
“And, so, yeah, unbelievable. Yeah, I guess if there’s a knock on it, golf is changing. Guys are getting stronger. The golf ball goes further. If there’s a knock on it, it may be a little bit on the short side. And still the fact of the matter is that, the course record at University Ridge is still only 65. So I don’t know how much of a factor that really is. You know, maybe we’ll find something different this weekend.
“Hopefully the weather is nice and sounds like it might be. So, you know, I just think it’s a spectacular place to play and we’re just very lucky to be there. And we all should be very proud of having a facility like that.”
Just a follow-up on the Ridge. Who’s in charge of the setup for it and how, in your opinion, what do you think the setup is going to be? Are they going to play it as far back as you possibly can, or just talk about that a little.
“Yeah, I will. I am the guy in charge of the setup. Yes, yes, yes, and yes, to all of the above. You know, we’ll play as long as we can. And, I asked that they didn’t cut the rough and that’ll play long. You know, yeah, it’ll be difficult. It’ll be as difficult as I think I can make it, and it’ll be as fair as I think I can make it as well.
“But, you know, we go back to the very first question that was asked, is it an advantage to play here. Most definitely it is. And that’s one of the advantages that we’re going to use, and, trust me, we’ll take everything we can get.”
Sort of along the same lines, if you could put a number on how many shots you think that’s worth playing at home over the course of an event, a tournament, what would that be? And realistically, I know you want to win, but realistically what would be a good finish for this team?
“Well, to answer the first part of the question, I hope the advantage is a lot. I hope it’s a ton. It’s tough because you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get. And for you that are golfers in here, when you play University Ridge you get two faces to it. If it’s windy, it’s extremely difficult. If it’s a nice day, you know, not too bad. You know, you’re going to see some low scores.
“Pretty tough for me to put on a number right now. It came through the winter pretty difficult and there are some issues with the fairways out there that we’re going to have to deal with, whether we look at those as a lift, clean, and place situation, I don’t know. We’ll be out there all week trying to keep our fingers crossed that those start to even grow a little bit more than they have. And they’ve made great progress.
“And I’ve got to say they’re doing a wonderful job compared to what some of the other golf courses in town have experienced in terms of their greens. You know, University Ridge is in very good shape for the winter that it came through, but I’m pretty sure you’re going to see some under-par scores out there, most definitely.
“Realistically, in a finish, yeah, we look to win and that’s it. You know, I think if you look somewhere else, you’re going to get something other than that. You know, I truly believe that. And I can’t think of an opportunity that comes around once every 10 years, so all the guys on my team now, whether they’re freshmen, redshirt or whatever, you know, it’s quite an honor to have this event here.
“And, if you can’t get ready and you can’t be ready for this event, both from a mental standpoint and your game, it’s going to be tough to get ready anywhere. So I feel very, very confident about what the guys are doing. Like I said earlier, I saw some great things last week, specifically on Sunday, and I look for very, very good things to happen over the weekend.”