Mean Green Ready To Tee Off Spring
North Texas Opens Spring Season Feb. 26 In Houston
DENTON – The spring golf season has arrived and both the men’s and women’s teams are ready to get back on the course for the championship portion of their schedules.
The men’s team tees off their spring campaign Friday, Feb. 16, from Humble, Texas, for the All-American Intercollegiate, while the women’s team is set to begin their season on Monday, Feb. 26, from The Woodlands, Texas, at The Dickson.
“I’m excited to go into the spring knowing that we had six guys performing at a high level in the fall,” men’s head coach Brad Stracke said. “Those six are playing really well in practice to start the spring as well. The freshmen are coming along nicely, two of which have been playing a lot and the upperclassmen are performing at a very high level.”
The men’s team enters spring as the No. 57 team in the nation according to Golfstat, following a fall season that had its ups and downs over the four tournament schedule, highlighted by a second place finish at the David Toms Intercollegiate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in early October.
“Over the last few weeks there has been a remarkable improvement,” women’s head coach Michael Akers said of his team. “You can really start to see them really hone in and we’ve seen some really good scores. Lauren (Cox) had a hole-in-one a couple of weeks ago and I’ve really seen some of them really start to take off.”
The women’s team has cracked the Golfstat top 100 for the first time in Akers’ tenure, checking in at No. 98 following the fall season, and continued the positive momentum within the program since Akers’ appointment.
The Mean Green men’s team saw some familiar faces compete consistently during the fall, in juniors Thomas Rosenmueller and Ian Snyman as well as senior Andrew Hudson. Additionally, junior Jordan Sanders made more of an impact than he did his first season on campus (2016-17) after transferring from Texas Tech, competing in all four fall events. Freshmen Vitek Novak and Viktor Forslund also performed well in their first foray into collegiate golf.
“We’re looking really good going into the Houston tournament,” Stracke said. “Though we don’t yet have the five that are going to go, I’m very confident with the six that are qualifying for those spots and that we will have a really good team that will give us a great opportunity to perform at a high level.”
Rosenmueller and Snyman both qualified as individuals last season for the NCAA Regionals and performed very well in the fall. Snyman posted a team-best average of 72.73 strokes per round for those who competed in all four fall tournaments. Rosenmueller was just a half stroke per round off his teammate’s pace, averaging 73.27 strokes per round.
The pair will be heavily relied upon this spring, as the team looks to return to the NCAA tournament, a place they competed in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. Hudson, the lone senior in the squad, has really improved his play dating back to last season. After missing all of 2015-16, Hudson has vaulted himself into competition for a consistent spot in the lineup. He had a breakout performance with a fourth place finish at the David Toms Intercollegiate, finishing three-under in the weather-shortened two round event.
Novak and Forslund provided a spark as both debuted at North Texas in the fall. Forslund posted the best single-round performance of the fall, carding a 67 at the Trinity Forest Invitational and also finished in a tie for 11th at the David Toms. Novak played in all four tournaments, posting a top-20 finish at the Trinity Forest Invitational.
A huge part of the successes Stracke and the team anticipate lie in a built-in advantage for both North Texas teams, which is the pair’s new home course, Maridoe Golf Club.
“It has a huge impact on our future,” Stracke said. “As far as recruiting goes and how it relates to the current players, it helps them perform at a higher level and contributes to their development. Being able to go out there and practice on our schedule is a huge attribute for our program and I believe it’s going to help elevate the program to heights that haven’t been seen in the last 40 years.”
Stracke and his team will open spring play Friday, playing through Sunday at the Golf Club of Houston in a deep 18-team field that includes five top-50 teams, three of which are in the top-15 nationally according to Golfstat (No. 5 Baylor, No. 8 Auburn and No. 13 Wake Forest).
Live scoring of the All-American Intercollegiate is available here, courtesy of Golfstat and the event tees off each morning (Friday through Sunday) at 8:30 a.m. CT.
The Mean Green women’s team is in a different position from a roster standpoint than their counterparts on campus, as Akers has six members on the team heading into spring competition, one of which missed the entire fall portion of the schedule.
Cox, a sophomore, junior Sol Lee, 2016-17 All-Conference USA performer sophomore Elena Kim, junior TCU transfer Sabina Pena and the team’s lone senior, Nyca Khaw each appeared in the full slate of fall tournaments for North Texas and will all factor in to the team’s continued success moving forward into the spring.
Cox paced the Mean Green in the fall, averaging a team-low 74.33 strokes per round, including the team’s best single round performance with a 67 at the Johnie Imes Invitational. In addition to competing in all four team events, Cox concluded her fall campaign as an individual at the Battle at the Beach in Cabo San Lucas. She posted the second top-10 finish of her career at the Maryb S. Kauth Invitational in late October, finishing in a tie for ninth. In addition to that finish, she added two more top-20 finishes, placing tied for 15th at the Johnie Imes, and tied for 17th at the Marilynn Smith/Sunflower Invitational.
Lee continued to show promise, averaging the second-lowest per-round average on the team at 74.80 during the fall season. Lee posted a pair of top-10 finishes, in back-to-back tournaments, with a ninth place performance at the Marilynn Smith/Sunflower Invitational and a fourth place finish at the Johnie Imes. She looks to continue to build on her consistency heading into the spring.
Kim, who placed fourth at the Conference USA Championships last spring is going to be expected to contribute and build on a few strong fall performances, while Pena settles in as a key member in the Mean Green lineup after her North Texas debut this past fall. Pena averaged a score of 75.75 per round, which was third on the team.
“We’ve still got a little bit of time before we go to Houston, so I’m very glad I scheduled the first tournament late in February to give us ample time to be ready and we are really excited to get things going in Houston.”
The Mean Green will tee off that competition on Feb. 26, and look to continue their ascension in the national rankings. Akers inherited a team that ranked No. 201 nationally at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season and has already halved that in just 18 months.
North Texas averaged a team score of 315 per round before Akers’ arrival and concluded the fall averaging a team score of 298.5 across the four team tournaments. As the team keeps improving, that number is expected to continue to fall, a lot of which can be attributed to the team’s dedicated practice time at Maridoe and commitment to constant improvement.
“It’s a first class facility and it gives us the best chance to prepare in terms of practice,” Akers said of the new facility. “We utilize it for practice purposes and we do station rotations where part of the team is hitting balls, and also have short game drills set up, so it’s been very good to help us hone in our skills.”
Maridoe will also be the home of the inaugural Bruzzy Challenge for the women’s team, taking place April 2-3 in Carrollton.
Fans can stay up to date with all things Mean Green golf by logging on to MeanGreenSports.com and following @MeanGreenGolf and @MeanGreenWGolf on Twitter and Facebook throughout the season.