Putting golf back on the map

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Head coach John Buchanan led the men’s golf team to place 17th at last year’s national championship in Allendale, MI.

Last year, the men’s golf team placed 17th in the national championship, and according to head coach John Buchanan, they achieved that “without playing that well” in the tournament.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a team that had to be rebuilt from the ground up five years ago; after being cut in 2006 due to financial problems, the team was once again granted varsity status.

The team’s climb was rocky, as they not only had to restart a golf program but also work to become NCAA calibre. However, as time went on, the team grew and so did their reputation, attracting higher class talent.

“Eventually, the dust started to settle and some of the local kids who might have gone south, but for whatever reason didn’t, came to SFU,” explained Buchanan.

He also noted that SFU’s academic reputation probably played a helping hand in that growth, drawing players such as Brayden Brown, an NCAA Division I transfer from Arkansas State University. “[SFU] is a really good school; that attracts people,” said the coach.

This year, the men’s team looks to improve on last year’s placing, and Buchanan believes that they can. However, he says that it’s all mental, a game of confidence, rather than a question of skill.

“We’ve got the capability of winning a national championship, it’s as simple as that. It’s the matter of whether they believe they can win a national championship,” Buchanan elaborated. “They’re as good as the Americans.”

He went on to explain that without confidence, they are giving the other teams a “head start.”

There is, however, a hole left by the absence of Mike Belle, SFU’s premiere player and last year’s GNAC player of the year, who graduated from NCAA eligibility. Last season, he held the best average score in the GNAC with 74 strokes.

Coach Buchanan states, though, that the team will make up for the loss with increased depth and more experienced returners: “Although we’ve lost our number one man, the three that are returning have matured.”

The returners include sophomore Kevin Vigna, who was last season’s GNAC freshman of the year and first Clan winner of the GNAC Championship, and junior Brett Thomson, who in the offseason placed eighth in the Canadian Amateur Championship, held in his hometown of Winnipeg. Both were selected to the all-conference team along with Belle and senior John Mlikotic.

Despite the fact that the men’s team are becoming a model of success, the women’s team has not reached the same pedigree, yet. “[The women’s team is] probably a year to two years from that, [but] we’ve already started to trend towards it,” Buchanan commented.

This season, he has already seen a portion of that upward trend, saying, “For the first time, we’ve actually got depth in our women’s team.” They currently have nine players listed on the roster including freshman additions Michelle Waters, Breanna Croxen, and Kyllie Jack.

This year, the men hope to continue their ascension to one of the top teams in the GNAC, while the women’s team work to carve out their own future success.

The Clan men open their season at the St. Martin’s Invitational in Olympia, WA on September 19 to 20, while the women’s team start at the SMU Invitational in Lacey, WA on October 6 to 7.