2015 Season Preview: Men’s Golf
Aug. 26, 2015
Building off its successes from a year ago, the U-M men’s golf team will look to continue establishing itself as one of the best among the Big Ten as well as the nation’s elite. The Wolverines development under fifth-year head coachChris Whitten has been steadily on the rise with three NCAA regional appearances in the last four years.
Seven of eight players return from last season, and depth and healthy competition will help provide Whitten the ability to bring the best five-man lineup to U-M’s 10-tournament regular-season schedule. With five fall and five spring events, the Wolverines’ balanced approach will help build their résumé while playing several of the top courses in the country, including the Inverness Club, The Meadow Club, Royal Oaks Country Club, Traditions Club and OSU’s Scarlet Course.
U-M will be led by six upperclassmen, including a trio of seniors who have combined to play in 87 career events. Chris O’Neill has started 36 straight events, while Brett McIntosh, who will be returning from illness, has started 27 in 33 events, and Andrew Yeager has 14 starts in 18 career events. Add in a trio of juniors — Bryce Evon, Reed Hrynewichand Tom Swanson — and the Wolverines have enough veterans to guide them back to their 39th NCAA postseason appearance.
The Wolverines lone sophomore, Kyle Mueller, will look to capitalize off his stellar freshman campaign when he led U-M in scoring average (72.86), finished as the top Wolverine in nine of 13 events and closed with an individual trip to the NCAA Championships.
The Wolverines welcome only one newcomer — Nick Carlson from Hamilton, Michigan. A four-time Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches Associations (MIGCA) Super Team selection, he will look to make an immediate impact on the lineup. Carlson highlighted his prep career by winning the Division II individual title twice (2012, ’15) and finished as the runner-up the other two years (2013, ’14).
STUDENT-ATHLETES TO WATCH
Chris O’Neill — O’Neill enters his final season in Ann Arbor having yet to miss a tournament in three seasons, starting 36 straight events. After an individual invitation to the 2014 NCAA Regional, O’Neill helped U-M to its first team appearance in 2015. Carrying a career average of 73.34, O’Neill has led U-M in scoring in two of three seasons. A two-time Ping Division I All-Midwest Region selection (2014, ’15), he was an All-Big Ten second teamer in 2014. Off the course, O’Neill, who is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, was honored with the prestigious Golf Coaches Association of American (GCAA) Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar award. He is just the 12th Wolverine to earn the academic honor.
Kyle Mueller — Mueller enters his second season after a stellar freshman campaign. He finished off his first season leading U-M in nine of 13 events, capping off the year with an individual invitation to the NCAA Championships, after closing as the medalist runner-up at the NCAA Regional. He won his very first collegiate event at the Wolverine Intercollegiate with a career-best seven-under 206. He was awarded All-Big Ten second team honors as well as selected to the PING Division I All-Midwest Region team. He guided U-M to a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Match Play Championship with a perfect 4-0 record. He was just the fourth freshman to lead the team in scoring with a 72.86 per-round average — the eighth-best single-season mark of all-time.
Inverness Intercollegiate (Sept. 21-22) — The Wolverines return to the site of U-M’s near run to the national title in 2009.
Big Ten Match Play Championships (Feb. 12-13) — After winning the event in 2014, the Wolverines were the runner-up in 2015 after dropping a back-and-forth championship match to No. 1 Illinois.
Desert Mountain Intercollegiate (March 5-6) — Hosting in Arizona for the second straight year, the Wolverines spring break event is quickly becoming one of the top spring events.
Big Ten Championships (April 22-24) — Playing at a neutral site for the fifth straight year, the Wolverines will head back to Victoria National in Newburgh, Indiana.
Head Coach Chris Whitten
On what he is looking forward to the most in 2015-16 … “I’m most looking forward to watching the guys work together. We’ve been through a lot as a group the past few years and the guys have really become close through it all. We talk about attitude and being ‘team-first’ a lot and these guys live it. With three seniors and three juniors on a team of eight, it will be fun to watch them play for each other – for their team.”
On what lessons were learned from last season … “The most important lesson we learned is that we’re capable of competing at a high level and that our process is working. We’ve seen major improvements across the board in each of the last four years and if we stick to the way we think, prepare, and fight, we’ll hopefully take another important step forward.”
On the overall thought of the 2015-16 schedule serving as preparation for postseason … “?We try to plan the schedule so that it prepares us in three ways – first in the overall difficulty of the courses and set ups, second in traveling to many different parts of the country to play on different grasses and in different climates, and lastly in the high level of competition we see. I like that we’ve developed a schedule with some consistency to it so our guys have past experiences at these events to look back to. Every event we play will feel like an NCAA Regional in some way and I’m excited to see how we perform and adjust along the way.”
Senior Chris O’Neill
On the upcoming season … “I fully expect us to improve upon what we achieved last year. We did a lot of memorable things, but we know we left shots out there that could have made a good season great. We are going to be very competitive and with the experiences from last year’s regional, we want to make sure we put it all together at the end and turn it into an NCAA Finals appearance.”
Led by freshman All-Big Ten second teamer Kyle Mueller and junior Chris O’Neill, the U-M men’s golf team reached the NCAA postseason as a team for the first time in four years. A seventh-place finish at the NCAA Washington Regional saw the Wolverines miss advancing to the NCAA Finals by just nine shots. Throughout the season, U-M posted five top-five finishes, including an opening win at the Wolverine Intercollegiate and runner-up finishes at the Big Ten Match Play Championships and the Desert Mountain Intercollegiate. Mueller, who led U-M in nine of 13 events, paced U-M with a 72.86 scoring average, with O’Neill just behind at 73.15. Both were PING Division I All-Midwest Region selections.