Men's Golf

Spring brings renewed focus and a new simulator

Nick Dennis, 22, is one of two seniors who lead a group of strong underclassmen, including freshman standout Garret Buckley. Courtesy of Steve Woltmann

Chicago’s current weather conditions are not the best for practicing outdoor sports, but Loyola’s men’s golf team has done all it can to get in shape for its spring season debut Feb. 16 and 17 in Edinburg, Texas.

The Ramblers finished in third place at the Bronc Intercollegiate tournament with a total 945 strokes. PJ Riner led Loyola with a two-over-par, 74 stroke round on the second day of the tournament and finished in fifth place overall. Garret Bucley joined Riner in the top 10, finishing in 10th place. Abilene Christian University won the tournament with a final total of 919 strokes.

Head Coach Kyle Stefan, the former women’s golf head coach at Chicago State University, was motivated to begin his second season at the helm of Loyola’s men’s golf program in the Missouri Valley Conference.

“Our main thing when we get to Texas this weekend is to get some good practicing on grass and really set the tone for what we all feel is going to be a very successful spring season,” said Stefan about the team’s preparation for the tournament.

The practice schedule that Stefan built includes the use of both Gentile Arena’s putting room for short-game practice and a brand new driving range simulator for long-game practice.

“We still have our putting room and our hitting room in Gentile, so we have two indoor facilities on campus now,” Stefan said. “We go back and forth. We do a lot of putting and short-game work over in Gentile, and we come over here to [the second floor of Centennial Forum] and do full-swing work, playing holes on the golf course. So between both areas I think we’ve had a lot of practice opportunities.”

The simulator, which was installed last month, has allowed Stefan to incorporate big changes into his training plan for the team.

“[The simulator] has kind of changed the whole dynamic of everything, because before we had to go outside and battle the wind and the weather and the cold, and now we do a lot of indoor training,” Stefan said.

Although physical conditioning and preparation have been key components ahead of the team’s spring season, senior Nick Dennis explained that the hard work and preparation the team put in last fall will finally start to pay off.

“We get to spend more time in the gym as well trying to get [into] better condition for the spring,” said the Waterford, Michigan, native. “For the spring, objectives are a little bit different in the sense that Missouri Valley championships [are what] we have worked toward the entire year. Now this is what really matters. This is when we want to find our five best guys and take them to the tournament.”

Although this is the most important time of the year for the golf team, Stefan has tried to take the pressure off his players by keeping a loose atmosphere instead of having them practice golf 24/7.

“We do a lot of skill work [and] a lot of fundamental stuff. We try to [include] some games [in practice] to keep it fun, keep it motivating [and] keep it interesting,” Stefan said.

That mentality is one that the team says it hopes will propel it toward a successful season.

“We want to compete for first, that’s our goal, and I think we have the talent to do it. It’s just a matter of peaking at the right time. Your entire year is built around three rounds of golf,” Dennis said.

The golf team now has almost a month off until its next tournament, which is March 13-15 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

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