DENVER – The Johnson & Wales University men's golf team is set for its inaugural spring season following a brief fall campaign.
A first-year program and member of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Wildcats competed in three events in the fall and have a full slate of tournaments ahead of them in the spring, starting with the Linda Lowery Invitational Feb. 25-26 in Austin, Texas and wrapping up with the SCAC Championship April 22-23 in Blanco, Texas. The chance to play in the conference championship is one the Wildcats aren't taking for granted.
"Not only are we going to play this conference championship, we're also going and representing our school as a new part of this conference," junior Alexander Fernandez said. "Just having the opportunity to go there and compete, putting our school name out there, is a great opportunity. I'm excited for it, I really am."
The Wildcats return all four members who competed in the fall as Fernandez will be joined in the lineup by freshmen Steven Gadient and Andrew Thimjon as well as sophomore Manuel Garcia III. Junior James Shalhoup, a transfer from Elms College (Chicopee, MA) has also been added to the mix and is expected to be an immediate contributor.
Fernandez led the team with a scoring average of 80.5 in the fall, including a round of 74 at the Wildcat/Cougar Dual hosted by JWU on Oct. 19 at Common Ground Golf Course. Gadient was next with an average of 89.2, including a first-round 83 at the Oglethorpe-Royal Lakes Fall Invitational, followed by Garcia III (92.2) and Thimjon (94.7).
Athletic director Tom Byrnes will oversee the program on an interim basis while searching for the team's next head coach. Byrnes has a feeling the Wildcats could open some eyes around the league this spring.
"On the men's side we have a handful of players that are going to be surprising people, quite frankly," Byrnes said. "Normally a first-year program in any sport struggles; you rarely finish in the top half, but I think we can. I think Alex has played Division III golf in the past, he's bringing that experience to the team this year, and I think he's able to give a little insight into what the rest of the players need to expect when they go on the course and they play in a Division III tournament."