As the month of August nears its close, the Binghamton golf team is gearing up for the start of the 2019 fall season. With five invitationals scheduled over a seven-week span, the team has the opportunity to showcase the strides it made over the offseason and defend the one championship it achieved last year.
Though the last time the team as a whole played in a competitive golf tournament was in late April during the Big Sky Championships, Binghamton head coach Bernie Herceg maintains that he has seen improvement from the members of his squad. Some have also competed individually in tournaments over the summer break.
“I would say the majority of them have definitely improved,” Herceg said. “Some of them really had a heavy summer tournament schedule, so when it comes to improving, the level that they’re at, they’re already strong players with a lot of talent — so the more tournaments they compete in, they’re just gaining more and more experience.”
Though most of Binghamton’s other athletic programs have to cope with a great deal of turnover at the start of a new season, this has not been the case for the golf program in recent semesters. At the start of the 2018-19 season, the team faced no departures and even added to its ranks. This season, the roster once again remains mostly the same, with the only departure being that of Zak Ottman, ‘19, who graduated last spring. Seniors Ryan Rodriguez and Tom Mandel became co-captains in Ottman’s absence.
“His leadership will be missed,” Herceg said of Ottman. “But there’s no doubt the guys are really looking forward to the year. We have three seniors on the team … and we’re looking forward to their leadership and really helping the team with their experience, [both] with our scores and being a stronger team going forward.”
The Bearcats began their preparation for the upcoming season on the first day of classes and continued into last weekend. Each player’s performance during these practices will determine who Herceg will place into one of the five available slots on the official team that will compete in the Bearcats’ first tournament of the season. Though the lineup has yet to be announced, last year’s leading Bearcat golfers, Rodriguez and junior Justin Lane, are likely to get the nod.
Of the five invitationals scheduled for the fall, the Matthews Auto Collegiate Invitational is the most important to the team. It is the annual invitational that Binghamton University hosts and the one that saw the Bearcats victorious a year ago. This year’s edition is slated for the first week in October.
But before that major event, BU will kick off its season with the Turning Stone-Tiger Intercollegiate in Verona, New York. This will be the fifth consecutive year that the Bearcats will participate in this invitational.
“We have experience there,” Herceg said. “We have experience on this course, and we’ve gone over the golf course individually, myself with them, in preparing for it accordingly when it comes to the tee shots and other things that are going to be needed for that golf course.”
On the whole, Herceg has high expectations for the team this season. Most of the players on the golf team have been under his tutelage for some time now, and Herceg believes that this experience will carry the team a long way this year.
“I really feel this is one of our most strongly talented teams starting the year off in a while,” Herceg said. “And I’m very excited for how we’re going to perform in the fall.”
The Turning Stone-Tiger Intercollegiate will take place over a two-day period, starting on Sunday, Sept. 1 from Verona, New York.