Men's golf 2009-10 outlook
As the Arizona State men's golf team enters the 2009-10 season, head coach Randy Lein is optimistic about his group of Sun Devils.
"We have as much talent as I think we've ever had," Lein said of this year's team. "It's going to be an exciting year. We just want to get off to a good start."
The Sun Devils return four of the five players that made up their lineup at the conclusion of last season. That group won the NCAA West Regional tournament by nine shots and then finished second after the 54-hole stroke play portion of the NCAA Championships before falling to eventual national champion Texas A&M in the quarterfinal round of match play.
Senior Knut Borsheim, juniors Jesper Kennegard and Scott Pinckney and sophomore Chan Kim are the four players back from that group, and while Stephan Gross left to turn professional, Lein indicated that he feels comfortable with junior James Byrne taking over for him in the lineup.
"James will fill in nicely at that position," Lein said. "You figure the four returners plus James, right there you've got five guys that I think can compete against anybody and compete successfully."
However, Lein said that lineup is far from a sure thing. Seniors Tristan Bierenbroodspot and Braxton Marquez, junior Cameron Edens, sophomore Spencer Fletcher and freshmen Jin Song and Darren Hupfer round out the roster for this season, and they will all have a chance to earn playing time.
"It's going to be interesting," Lein said. "I could submit a sealed envelope right now with the five that I think are going to be playing this year, and I could easily be wrong."
The team's top player again figures to be Kennegard, who has earned honorable mention All-American recognition each of the last two years. He ended his sophomore season on a high note by winning the individual title at the West Regional and tying for ninth at the NCAA Championship.
"Jesper has been our team leader the last two years," Lein said. "He has played in every tournament since he has been at ASU. He's had a good summer, and he's excited about it."
Borsheim is the most experienced player on the team, having played in the postseason each of the last three years, and he will look to build on a strong spring as he heads into his senior season. He had three top-10 finishes in his final five events last year, including a tie for third at the West Regional, and he was an honorable mention All-American.
"He worked hard and played well," Lein said of Borsheim. "He is one of the integral people in our success. Jesper and Knut should be our core."
Pinckney, who also was an honorable mention All-American last season, will look to continue the momentum from a strong sophomore campaign, as he posted three top-10 finishes on the year and tied for 13th at the NCAA Championship.
"He played really well in the postseason," Lein said of Pinckney. "His game continues to improve, and as he gets more and more comfortable, it's going to get even better."
Kim enters this season coming off a very good freshman year. He had the lowest scoring average among the team's postseason lineup, and he tied for third at the West Regional, so he will look to continue his strong play this season.
Byrne is the early favorite to replace Gross in the team's lineup. Over the summer, Byrne had two dominating victories in Europe, first winning the Tennant Cup by seven shots, and then a week later, capturing an eight-stroke victory at the SolarSport East of Scotland amateur championship.
"He had an incredibly good summer," Lein said. "We're looking forward to him just continuing on and playing well for us."
Bierenbroodspot and Marquez could also figure into the Sun Devils' lineup this year, and Lein said he knows both of them want to make the most of their senior seasons, while Edens and Fletcher have a chance to play as well.
Song and Hupfer are the two freshmen newcomers to the team this year. Song, the winner of the Arizona Amateur in 2008, definitely figures to compete for playing time this season.
"He's going to be in the mix," Lein said of Song. "He's certainly comfortable shooting in the 60's, which is good. He's just getting comfortable in his position on the team."
The final member of the team this year is Philip Francis, a highly touted junior golfer who transferred from UCLA and will have to sit out this season. Though he won't be competing for the Sun Devils in 2009-10, Lein is happy to have a player like Francis, the winner of the 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur, as part of the team.
"He's so excited to be here," Lein said. "I'd say his game, right now, is better than it has been in probably a year. So it's coming back. Although he's got to sit out a year, he's doing everything with the team, and everything will be good."
The Sun Devils will begin the season on Sept. 18, when they travel to the Olympia Fields Invitational in Chicago. That tournament is the beginning of a three-tournament fall schedule that also includes the Ping Preview in Seattle and the Isleworth Invitational in Orlando, and Lein said the fall tournaments should help him see where his team stands among the nation's elite.
It all leads up to the NCAA Championship on May 24-29, 2010, which is being played this year at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn. That is the same course on which the Sun Devils captured the national championship in 1996.
With a team that played its best at the end of last season, Lein is excited about the possibilities for this year.
"I feel very good," he said. "We finished off last year strong. Last year, we thought we were pretty good, and we kind of proved it at the end. Now, with that, you know we're good. So, the expectations are much higher than they were just a year ago."