By Jake Eisenberg
The men’s golf season gets underway this Sunday, when the team travels to Rio Grande, Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Classic.
This fall, the team finished in the top-five of four of the five tournaments they played, led by junior David Kocher, sophomores Timothy Colanta, Justin Feldman, and freshman Peter Knade, who each played in all five events.
“We had a good fall, played really well in four events, and are looking forward to a great spring,” head coach Jason Rodenhaver said.
Rodenhaver, who is entering his seventh season at the helm of the Terps, is most looking forward to the depth Maryland will have this spring.
“This is probably the first year we’ve had five guys who can play—we’ve been one score short the last couple years of being where we need to be,” Rodenhaver said. “I’m really encouraged with the depth we’ve created here.”
Kocher, who has been to the NCAA Regional as an individual the past two seasons, returns to lead the team after finishing in the top-25 in five of six events last spring.
“I want to make it as a team to NCAA Regionals,” Kocher said. “I made it the past two years, so it’s a really big goal of mine to encourage the guys to practice all the time and play their best all the time, because [to go] to NCAA Regionals as a team is a really big deal.”
The team opens the season this Sunday, Feb. 19, with the Puerto Rico Classic at the Rio Mar Beach and Spa Resort. Last year, the Terps finished ninth as a team, with Kocher finishing tied for 4th and Colanta finishing tied for 34th as individuals.
“We start in Puerto Rico on [Sunday], in a really strong field, so we have an opportunity to really help our cause in the rankings,” Rodenhaver said. “When you play in February, everyone is a little bit rusty, so we’ll use that to our advantage.”
Kocher and Colanta are the only two returning starters to have played in more than 10 events last year, making them the de facto veterans for a team that will feature four underclassmen—two sophomores and two freshmen—in the starting five.
“It’s important to keep your game sharp at all times, because every tournament is big and every tournament counts toward something,” Kocher said. “I think that’s the biggest thing I can bring to the team. We play a lot of the same tournaments every year, so during practice rounds or leading up to tournaments I try to help the guys with what they need to practice, whether it’s short irons or driving accuracy.”
In addition to the newfound depth, Rodenhaver is excited about the youth of his team, rather than worried.
“We’re going to have the same team here for about three more years,” Rodenhaver said. “It’s great that the freshmen will get some experience, which is beneficial to them and their futures.”
This year, the state of Maryland will host the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in program history. The event will be held at Baltimore Country Club April 28-30.
“Baltimore Country Club is a top-100 course in the country, it’s a wonderful venue, and we’re thrilled to have [the Big Ten Championships] here in the state of Maryland,” Rodenhaver said. “Hopefully we’ll get a lot of Terps fans up there to watch us and encourage us, and I think we have a good chance to do very well.”
The Terps had their best finish of the spring season at the Big Ten Tournament last year, finishing third, including an individual sixth-place finish by Kocher.
“We played really well last year at the Big Ten Tournament, so I’m just looking to build on that again this year,” Kocher said. “That time of the year is when we play our best, so I’m looking forward to playing well up in Baltimore and hopefully we can get a lot of fans there.”
Maryland begins its season February 19-21, with the Puerto Rico Classic at the Rio Mar Beach and Spa Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.