There always seemed to be a lingering question looming over the men’s golf team at the University of North Florida. Can they play with the big boys? After all, the Ospreys are comparative neophytes in Div. I competition. They didn’t enter the upper echelon of collegiate golf until 1997 and their success has been somewhat limited. In all, they’ve appeared in two NCAA Championships (2000 and 2010) and have played in the regionals seven times. This hardly hints of dynasty. This year, however, there may be a trend of change. The more ardent of Osprey backers are whispering the question: Can the big boys play with the Ospreys? While questions of this ilk may be a bit premature, it’s not unthinkable that they at least can contend on a more equal playing surface. The Ospreys’ play this spring has been the reason for this burgeoning optimism. In their past four tournaments, they’ve posted one win (their own John Hayt Collegiate Invitational at Sawgrass) and a pair of seconds. At the Furman Intercollegiate they went wire-to-wire in the runner-up spot behind winner Virginia Tech, and the Ospreys also finished second in the prestigious Gator Invitational held at the University of Florida, behind Florida State and ahead of such ranked teams as Southern Alabama and Florida. But it may have been a third-place finish at the Chris Schenkel Invitational that solidified the Ospreys as a team to be reckoned with going forward. Yes, they finished third, their lowest finish in three tournaments, but it was the way they did it. Instead of folding their tents in the face of overwhelming odds, they battled for all three rounds. In the final round, senior standout Sean Dale threw a 5-under-par 67 at the field to finish tied for third in the individual race, while teammate M.J. Maguire, a sophomore, supported him with a tie for eighth place. In the end, the Ospreys finished behind only second-ranked Alabama and fourth-ranked Texas. Now the talk shifted to the team perhaps peaking too soon. “I do see a trend towards the team playing better,” admitted coach Scott Schroeder. “But that’s a product of hard work. These guys have done the work to make these improvements.” Hard work has been a mantra of Schroeder’s since the opening of the fall season, and as the season has progressed it’s taking on an even greater importance. “We’ve talked about it all year,” he said. “It’s where we want to be in May (the NCAA Championship) and how to get there.” In a slight fashion, Schroeder’s role has changed going into the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship and beyond. “I have to work with each player to get them focused on what they’re doing and not what the other guys are doing,” he said. “Golf isn’t like team sports, it’s about individual effort. The only way you can help your teammates is by doing your job. If the players can keep that in mind we’ll be OK.”
The Florida State Golf Association kicks off its ambitious schedule this week. First on the tee will be the Women’s Senior Amateur Championship. A field of 84 players will travel to Bonita Springs to take on Worthington Country Club for 36 holes. Leading the charge will be defending champion Lynda Case, but as she’ll soon find out, uneasy is the crown on the head of the queen. Looming in the not-distant background will be three-time champion Diane Lang, who took home the trophy in 2006, ’10 and ’11. And if that’s not enough of a formidable challenge, 2009 winner Jan Phillips and 2008 champion Taffy Brower are familiar with the route to the winner’s circle. Also, the first round of the FSGA’s Super Senior Championship will begin Tuesday at Lake Wales Country Club, with Jim Carley of Ormond Beach looking to defend the age 65-69 crown he won last year at Black Diamond Ranch. The championship is broken into three divisions, with Walt Martin from St. Augustine looking to retain his age 70-74 title, as is Bill Feehan of Marco Island in the 75-and-older division.
In Titusville at La Cita Golf & Country Club, they’re still celebrating their third FSGA Interclub Championship. After six weeks of matches and two of playoffs, the championship was settled March 28 at Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City. La Cita was led in the final round by Peter Schuch and Jason Snodgrass, who each scored 37 Stableford points to give their team a 211 total for the day and 404 points for the 36 holes. The final tally gave La Cita a four-point win ahead of both Queen’s Harbour Yacht & Country Club of Jacksonville and Quail Creek Country Club in Naples. The winning La Cita team also included Scott Ahmie, Syd Brooke, Ed Burrow, Walt Cerrato, Don Danielson, Tim Fields and Donn Hennessey