October 1, 2016

Webster University golf team succeeds with unconventional schedule

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KRISTEN PRUSER / The Journal Sophomore Justin Onken takes a swing during golf practice on Sept. 18. The Golf team finished second in the Wisconsin Lutheran Tournament on Sept. 15

Much like the sport they play, the Webster men’s golf team has a schedule full of long drives and plenty of waiting.

For the fourth straight year, the golf team starts with five out-of-state events to start the fall portion of their season.  The average time of travel is over four and a half hours for the six events, including three trips to Wisconsin, a trip to Kentucky and two trips to Illinois.

The team often departs early on their trips, Men’s Head Coach Andrew Belsky said on some occasions as early as 6 a.m. Belsky drives the team himself in a Webster University van. Sophomore Jay Hargis said the team finds different ways to stay preoccupied on the long hauls.

“We leave pretty early, so a lot of us will sleep part of the way up there, work on homework, relax and just hang out,” Hargis said.

Belsky said there are many factors that go into the scheduling.

“The way our sport works [is] one team has a tournament and a bunch of schools come in, so there’s really nothing in our area,” Belsky said. “So you have to travel, you have to see how it fits with the calendar and you have to find the events that have other good teams going to them.”

Finding the events makes a difference when it comes to building the program the way Belsky wants to. Athletic Director Scott Kilgallon said almost every top Division III school plays a similar schedule.

Last season the team won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament, which automatically put them in the National Championship Tournament. They finished 25th at the National Championship, missing the cut on the second day.

Belsky said making the tournament and finishing 25th will help with recruiting, and will continue to help the team to work its way up the end of season rankings each year.

Kilgallon said the golf program is constructed similarly to the one he most recently presided over. At his last school, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, both the men’s and women’s golf teams finished as high as third in the country. He said much of this travel and packed schedule is just the way it is for Midwestern schools.

“You have the bulk of your events during the [early] part [of the fall], and you have to consider weather conditions because we’re a little different than California or Arizona,” Kilgallon said.

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KRISTEN PRUSER/THE JOURNAL Jay Hargis lines up a drive during golf practice.

Kilgallon said he has been impressed with every team’s academic success, including team national honors for men’s (3.23 GPA) and women’s (3.11 GPA) track and field, volleyball (3.48 GPA) and women’s tennis (minimum 3.2 GPA), but said the golf team stood out.

They posted a 3.67 team GPA for the 2013-14 academic year, which was a .37 point improvement from the previous year. Their GPA was good enough to earn them the President’s Recognition, an academic award given to golf teams finishing with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. They were one of only 20 teams nationwide, regardless of division, to earn the distinction.

“All of us are committed [to academics],” Hargis said, “and four sophomores live together, the two juniors live together and the two freshmen live together, and we all support each other and know when the study times are.”

Hargis said he thinks the schedule actually gives them an advantage when it comes to schoolwork. With such a condensed season, they have much of the semester to focus on the classroom, and even in the middle of the hectic travel, they have plenty of time to do homework.

“We spend six hours a day playing at the actual tournament by the time we do our warm-ups beforehand,” Hargis said. “Then we basically go from the tournament, we get something to eat then we are in the hotel room either doing homework relaxing, preparing for the next day’s play.”

In addition to golf and school, Hargis said most of the players have part-time or work -study jobs. Hargis, who works for Coach Belsky as his work study, said he cuts back his hours during the golf season. He also acknowledged that his schedule can get hectic.

“I try to manage my time as best I can, but there are times that I get stressed out,” Hargis said. “But there is always time in the day to work on stuff.”

Golf is the only two-semester men’s sport that Webster offers. This season, Belsky has scheduled five varsity events into the first six weeks of the fall semester, and five events in six weeks in the spring, starting with a spring break tournament in South Carolina

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