Sept. 11, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky men’s golf team opens its season Monday at the Marshall Invitational in Huntington, W.Va.
Entering the 2011 season, the 11th under the direction of head coach Brian Craig, the Wildcats will look to turn the corner with a talented group of returning golfers and an exciting trio of freshman newcomers.
“I feel good about this team,” Craig said. “I think that right now we have the nucleus to really do something good. So what I’m excited about is to see how much better we can get throughout the season and ultimately get this team into the postseason and let them have a chance to see what they can do on the biggest stage. We’re ready for that.”
The Marshall Invitational, hosted by Marshall University, will be played at Guyan Golf and Country Club. The Wildcats have played in this tournament twice before in the Brian Craig era, finishing in fourth in 2002 and a tie for second in 2003. Both of those tournaments were played during the spring season.
The two-day, 54-hole tournament will feature 15 schools competing for the title, including the Wildcats. Joining Kentucky in Huntington will be Cincinnati, Cleveland State, Eastern Kentucky, Louisville, Marshall, Northwestern, Ohio State, Ohio University, Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, Western Kentucky, William & Mary, Wright State, and Xavier. The schedule calls for 36 holes on Monday with an 8:30 a.m. ET shotgun start, followed by 18 holes Tuesday beginning at 8 a.m.
"We are ready to get the season started at the Marshall Invitational and see what this team can do,” Craig said. “We have practiced well these last couple of weeks and also had some guys step up and finish qualifying on a very positive note. Our mantra this season will be staying patient and finishing strong. We will need both of those traits to play well here at Guyan Country Club."
Kentucky returns seven letter winners to its roster, including 2010 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman selection Chase Parker. Parker, a junior this year, led the Wildcats last year with five top-25 finishes and the lowest season stroke average on the team with a 73.29 mark.
“I’m looking for Chase to do a great job of leading this team on the course and off the course,” Craig said. “He’s very consistent. He’s what I call an ‘everyday player.’ We need more of that. We need guys who, even when they’re not at their best, are still competitive. That’s what Chase is and that’s one of the reasons he’s so valuable to this team. He is an everyday player and we can count on him to be in it all the time. I’m excited about him. He has two years left and I think he’s in a spot to really excel and make these last two years really exceptional.”
Also returning for UK will be sophomores Matthew Anderson, Cody Martin and Stephen Powers, as well as juniors Joseph Barr and Seth Blann. The lone senior on the team, Mads Kristensen, will be called upon by Craig to help show the younger players the ropes. Kristensen has played in the SEC Championships in each of his first three years with the Cats and played in six tournaments last season.
“Mads has great skills and fundamentals, and he has a great work ethic,” Craig said. “I think with the right mentality, patience and mindset on the golf course, he’ll be ready to take it up a notch. We hope he’ll do that, he’s our only senior and has a lot of knowledge of the courses we play and how to play in those big tournaments. I’m excited and I hope he’ll play how he’s capable of playing.”
Newcomers to the roster include Will Bishop, Todd McDaniel and David Snyder. All three freshmen are Kentucky natives and all, Craig said, will have a chance to contribute immediately.
“Will Bishop is a local product out of Dunbar High School,” Craig said. “Will has a really good junior record and has proven he can shoot low scores in those tournaments. He absolutely has a chance to contribute. Todd McDaniel from Manchester, Ky., would be what I would call a little bit of a late bloomer. He really didn’t come into his own until probably after his junior year of high school and since then he’s been really good and really solid. He has a competitive spirit that I’d like to instill in everybody on the team. He’s the kind of guy you want to go to battle with. And David Snyder from Somerset, Ky., has a chance to contribute right off the bat. He’s a big, strong, already physically developed kid with a very good junior record. There’s no question he’s capable of helping out.
“I think all three of them are going to play this year. We’ll just see how much and when it happens. I hope they play great because there are some open spots for them to take.”
Also new to the roster in 2011 is first-year assistant coach Jessie Mudd. Mudd comes to Kentucky after a successful All-America career at the University of Florida where he helped lead the Gators to three top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
Kentucky is seeking to return to NCAA Regionals for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Craig and the Wildcats will look to build on the 2010-11 season that saw them record four top-three finishes, their most since the 2005-06 season.
“The foundation, particularly with the younger guys, talent-wise, is really good,” Craig said. “So we have a bunch of guys who are going to be here for awhile together and are going to keep growing and getting better and better and taking us back to where we need to be and desire to be. I’m looking forward to the challenge of improving this year, getting better and getting back on track and seeing how far we can take it. And I think with these guys, by the end of the year, we’ll be pretty dog-gone good.”
For more news and information on the Kentucky men’s golf team, please go to UKAthletics.com.