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Courtesy: USF Athletics

Men's Golf Tees Off in Missouri

Courtesy: USF Athletics
          Release: 09/02/2012
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Event: Missouri Intercollegiate

Where: Porto Cima CC (Sunrise Beach, Mo.)

Monday through Tuesday, all day

Who to Watch:
With the graduation of Troy Klongerbo, Lex Moore and Shea Stoltenberg, there were three vacancies on the Cougars' 2012 travel roster.

The team wrapped up tryouts for travel spots last week and the battle for all five positions came down to the last nine holes. "Qualifying week was intense, which is what we had hoped to see," said assistant golf coach Brett Coluccio. "We are trying to create an atmosphere where our practices are just as or more difficult than any tournaments we play and we want our players to feel like if they can beat their teammates, they can beat anyone."  

"With the results from qualifying week, we feel as though that culture is building," he added.

The top-5 qualifiers are seniors Levi Smith (Washington) and Jordan Mueller (Yankton), and a trio of true freshmen: Sioux Falls Christian products Andrew Nelson and Jon Van't Hul and Watertown standout Nick Gottsleben.     

"This group, even being as young as they are," is battled tested," Coluccio said. "Our incoming freshmen played a very competitive junior golf schedule as well as a strong slate of South Dakota Golf Association events, so they come in with a lot of experience."

Did you know?

The men's golf squad tallied five top-4 finishes during the program's NCAA D-II transitional season, including a tied for runner-up finish at the fall portion of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament which turned the heads of future NSIC opponents. The Cougars were alone in third prior to the final round of the spring portion of the event, but "played our worst round of the year," according to Coluccio and were forced to settle for sixth place.  

In their final match of the 2011-12 campaign, senior Troy Klongerbo defeated Quincy University's Patrick Higgins in an individual playoff, 3-5, on hole No. 1 at Rivercut Golf Course Tuesday to claim his first career title at the 2012 Drury University Pasta House Classic. The team carded a 309 to finish third in the team standings with a two-day total of 615

Levi Smith led the way for USF all season long, tallying four top-6 finishes and a pair of individual titles. He carded a two-under par 142 to tie for first at the SCSU Husky Invite and followed that with a school record 66 (-5) at the Bob Writz Invitational for the second crown of his junior campaign.

The former All-GPAC performer also tied for second at the Cougar Invite (77-71) and wrapped up the season strong with a sixth place finish Drury University Pasta House Classic.

Big things are expected from Smith and classmate Jordan Mueller, who recorded back-to-back season-low rounds (71-72) at the spring portion of the NSIC tournament to notch a sixth place finish (80-78-71-72=301).

"I expect the seniors to be leaders in the classroom, the community, the weight room and on the golf course," Coluccio said. "They performed excellent last season with Levi taking first at two tournaments and Jordan tying for sixth at the NSIC event, which would have made him all-conference if we had been eligible."

"I expect their progress to continue with the results from last season fueling them to reach the next level and shave more strokes off their games."

Preview: The Cougars head to Sunrise Beach, Mo., to compete in the Missouri Intercollegiate, an event that historically brings in several top NCAA D-II teams.

USF has played top teams before (see, the University of Arizona), but this is entirely new ground for them.

The Cougars will be pitted against some stiff competition at the Missouri Intercollegiate, including Hannibal-LaGrange, Lincoln, William Woods and Central Missouri.

With the recent shift in the NCAA Division II regions that moved the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Texas-based Lone Star Conference to the Central Region along with teams from the newly-formed Great American Conference, Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, it has become critical for northern teams like USF to face their southern regional opponents early in the season.  

Coluccio stresses they won't be intimidated as the team is ready to hit the links and face some of the best NCAA D-II golf programs in the Central Region.

"We wanted to make the first event as close to playing in a national tournament as we could, and the quality of the field we're facing the next two days will make that possible," Coluccio said. "With the changes in the central region, we wanted to challenges ourselves against the teams in the region as early and often as possible."

"The Club at Porto Cima is an amazing golf course and this is a tremendous way to start the year," he added.  

Coluccio also noted that he had no real concerns going into the tournament, in terms of the stifling heat that is expected on both days of the event.

"The remnants of Hurricane Isaac moved through Sunrise Beach at the end of last week, so the golf course should be ready to go," he said. "The heat isn't much of a concern as we've been playing in that kind of weather all summer long."  

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