By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Capital University Men's Golf is both mentally and physically prepared for the 2019 Ohio Athletic Conference Championship, which begins Friday, May 3. Capital will tee off at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Friday morning from River Greens Golf Course in West Lafayette, Ohio to kick off the three-day tournament.
THE STARTING FIVE
The Capital lineup will feature many of the same names fans have seen all year, but it was not without a little competition to round out the backend of the contributing five.
Ryan Wright, Nick Brunsman and Luke McCollough all had their performances evaluated over the last three tournaments to find the fifth and final starter. In the end, Wright emerged as Head Coach Andy Garcia's choice to serve as the number five starter, citing his accuracy off the tee and strong short game as the reason for his decision.
"Ryan [Wright] probably has the best short game of anybody on the team and because of that, on this course, he will thrive," said Garcia.
Seniors Logan Holbrook and Noah Iovino will kick things off as the Crusaders' one and two options, as has been all season long. Holbrook, a 2019 three-time OAC Golfer of the Week honoree, will lead the Capital charge while Iovino, the winner of the Otterbein Spring Classic, will serve as the number two.
TAKE FROM THE CART
The Crusaders come off an eighth-place finish at the OAC Spring Classic in Hudson, Ohio, which served as the backend of the conference regular season championship. While it was a less-than-desirable finish with poor playing conditions provided by Mother Nature that has fueled the fire for Cap to close out the season the right way.
"I really like the team's work ethic, especially this week," said Coach Garcia. "They have really picked it up a notch heading into the championship weekend. It helps now that school is over … and they are really locked in on the tournament."
Word from the clubhouse is that each team member is putting pressure on the other and that everything is being made a competition to ready themselves for the weekend, mentally. Part of the mental preparation also comes from the Crusaders two seniors, Logan Holbrook and Noah Iovino.
"There is no typical 'senior talk' about how this is going to be their last tournament," said Garcia. "They are wired differently. To them, it's just another tournament. There is not too much pressure. They are ready for the moment. I expect greatness out of them."
THE REST OF THE FIELD
Otterbein looks to defend its title for the fifth consecutive year and comes off its ninth straight regular season championship. John Carroll broke Otterbein's eight-year regular season title streak this year and may serve as the stiffest competition to dethrone the Cardinals. Having said that, Garcia states that it really could be anybody's trophy, this year.
"This is an odd year because one through nine, anyone can actually win this thing," he said.
Looking at the fall and spring regular season trophy tournaments, Heidelberg showed the biggest improvement (-9) and finished fifth. Mount Union finished sixth and showed the biggest drop off (+18) between rounds. Capital uncharacteristically finished 10th, but all remember just how close the Crusaders were to winning the Otterbein Spring Classic in another 10-stroke differential to the Cardinals a week after their first encounter.
Capital is no stranger to the championship site, River Greens Golf Course in West Lafayette, Ohio. The course has served as the championship site for years and Capital will make its second trip there this season. On April 3, Capital and Otterbein took part in an 18-hole dual match against rival Otterbein in which the Crusaders lost but only by a combined 10 strokes to the Cardinals.
Coach Garcia cites that familiarity with the course can be a good or a bad factor. The comfort of returning to the course can cause overly aggressive play, which can get golfers into trouble on short holes. With that, expect the Crusaders to take a conservative approach at River Greens, this year.
"Our issue is having the experience there, we think we can destroy it if we want to, so we haven't respected the course," said Garcia. "We've tried to overpower it. So we're going to try a different stance this year and let the course come to us, fall back on the good memories and humble ourselves. We just need to hit the middle of the green. I'll take a two-putt for par any day."
Accuracy off the tee and strong putting games were the top two areas that Coach Garcia says will be critical toward having a successful weekend.
The weather forecast is not the most encouraging report to roll into the championship with. As of Thursday morning, Weather.com is reporting an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms throughout the day with light winds and a high temperature of 68 degrees on Friday. Showers are expected to resume on Saturday (80-90%) and a high of 65 degrees. Sunday may show the first sign of sun with precipitation ranging between just 10-20 percent and temperatures reaching a high of 69 degrees.
Forecast subject to change.