Despite the Youngstown State University men’s golf team losing three seniors to graduation last year, it is coming back stronger — with younger players.
Tony Joy, head coach of the men’s golf team, said he has high expectations for the team as it moves forward.
“We have a very young team, and winning that first tournament [in September] was really positive,” Joy said.
Joy said one of the top players on the team, Shane Wilson, didn’t return to YSU and decided to play hockey at West Virginia University.
Regardless of losing Wilson, Joy said he feels his team can compete even with the losses of top players.
“This season we have two redshirted freshmen,” Joy said.
Redshirted freshmen are students who are held out for a year, but will be eligible to play in their sophomore year.
The team can play up to five golfers, so Joy looked for some of the freshmen alongside sophomores and juniors to compete for the spots.
“In golf, you try to put yourself in a better position,” Joy said.
Mark Olbrych, team captain, said to help keep his composure, he not only works hard but helps the younger guys understand the fundamentals of college golf.
“All of them have been playing golf for a while, so it gets easier and they gain more confidence,” Olbrych said.
Olbrych said focusing on the present is the only way he can get somewhat of an outlook for the upcoming invitational.
“You learn from past tournaments and try to just forget your previous mistakes. You just move on,” Olbrych said. “It’s golf, so you really can’t predict anything.”
Olbrych said his goal for the season is to come home with the conference championship from Florida, where the Horizon League Championships are held.
Joy said that in two of the upcoming tournaments, one in Indiana and one against Big East and Big Ten schools, that the team will face some “really competitive” golfers.
“Some of the schools have already played in Florida,” Joy said.
“Practicing inside is good, but when you get to practice on the green, it’s much better.”
Bill Gaffney, who was a redshirted freshman last season, impressed Joy by winning the Colgate Invitational in early September.
“Basically I learned that course management, like managing your swing, was more beneficial,” Gaffney said.
Gaffney, like Olbrych, takes a focus on the present approach to golf.
“I’ve learned to ignore a bad shot, and try to eliminate how bad it could get,” Gaffney said. “I tried to limit it to a bogey and tried to make par.”
Gaffney said an amateur golfer in Florida helped him find his groove.
“He told me he’d go for the pins if he had an iron in his hands,” Gaffney said. “By doing that, you’ll have a better success of getting on the green.”
Gaffney said he has been preparing himself mentally for the difficulties that are ahead of him.
“Instead of getting emotional, I want to focus on every shot,” Gaffney said.
Joy has called Gaffney a “positive force” for the team, but also relies on sophomore Bryan Yeo for tournaments.
Yeo, who Joy calls a “stabilizing force in the lineup,” touched on the fact that despite the team losing its seniors, it still has a real shot to win big.
“We are a young team. If the guys have an idea, we talk about it,” Yeo said.
Yeo said the team has been able to mesh together through practice and summer tournaments.
“We might struggle a little, but [the freshmen] have grown up,” Yeo said.
Joy said Yeo is one golfer that he can rely on. Yeo’s experience has been able to help him transition his game as he gets into his later years of college.
“I played most of the spring, but I still need to work on my short game,” Yeo said. “I know the courses and where you want to hit the ball.”
Yeo said “getting comfortable with golf comes with experience.”
“After you’ve played for a while, you know the green a little better, and you know which clubs to use,” Yeo said.
The team will travel to Malvern, Pa., for the Villanova Wildcat Invitational on Monday and Tuesday. After that, the team will have three more tournaments before heading to Florida for the championship at the end of April.