Dan Piersma, Staff Writer
For the first time in the program’s history, the Utica College men’s golf team won the Empire 8 Conference Championship on Sunday, Oct. 6. With a two-day total score of 627, the team was able to win the title with a seven-stroke lead.
Golf began at UC in 2000 but the current leadership staff has only been here for four years. Coach Brian Marcantonio has gotten to see the current seniors grow with him over the past four years while watching them develop into an eventual championship-caliber team.
He instilled belief in them and instructed that building this program would take time when he and coach Dave Clausen took over as co-head coaches.
“Winning this tournament was very rewarding for the guys and they deserve it,” Marcantonio said. “They have very good practice habits and always work as hard as they can to improve.”
Throughout the fall season, the team ranked top three in Par 3’s, Par 4’s and Par 5’s, which is what lead them to such a great season.
“When we are having a good day, we can be a dangerous team off of the tee,” he said.
As it pertains to the tournament, UC had a tournament best 20 birdies that propelled them to their victory.
Senior Mason Munger discussed the team goals going into a matchup.
“The coaches always tell us to go for nothing more than a bogey,” Munger said.
The Pioneers have far from completed their goal despite winning the tournament, as the scores from this round carry over to the spring tournament. The winner of the spring tournament will clinch a bid in the NCAA tournament at the end of the year.
Marcantonio discussed his team’s struggles on hole 18 but also the fact that they can bounce back from these tough holes.
“Our top guys have the ability to make back shots very quickly and regain leads,” he said. “It was a tough course that none of us have played on before and it didn’t help there it was very windy and rainy on the second day,” Munger added.
Munger is looking forward to the spring tournament because it’s a course everyone on the team has played before so they know how the course works.
With this in mind, it helps the guys feel better about the seven strokes lead they already have going into the spring tournament. Utica was underdogs going in and may even still be underdogs with the slim lead.
“St. John Fisher has always been the powerhouse, so going in as underdogs definitely gave a little more motivation and made the win more rewarding,” Munger said.
Munger was one of the first students recruited by both coaches and he was very excited to try and help build this team and program with them. Winning a tournament was something he only wished could happen when he came here as a first-year player.
“I definitely wasn’t thinking about this four years ago when I was getting recruited, it was more just about getting to play at the college level,” he said. “This season will definitely change how the coaches can recruit in the future.”
The coaches’ key for success could be that they are so much more than just golf coaches to the players.
“Each coach has certain things they help out with when it comes to being involved outside with us outside of golf,” Munger expressed.
The team will look to win the spring tournament once the season starts back up next semester.