The University of Utah men's golf team looks to swing to the next level under the direction of first-year head coach Randall McCracken.
Sept. 13, 2004
The University of Utah men's golf team looks to swing to the next level under the direction of first-year head coach Randall McCracken. The Utes return five members from last year's squad, which posted three second-place finishes. Utah also finished in the top ten in nine of the 12 tournaments it played last year. Five of those outings resulted in top-five finishes.
"This is one of the best teams I've seen," said McCracken. "I couldn't have been put into a better position. The quality of the team members and their playing abilities are great. My job is to develop them into one of the most consistent teams in the conference and country."
Utah will have its hands full as it plays in one of the most competitive golf conferences in the nation. The Mountain West featured three of the top 20 teams in the country last year and had five teams ranked in the top 50. McCracken doesn't see the competitiveness of the competition as a negative. Instead, he views it as a challenge his team is looking forward to.
"Last year, Utah was 13 strokes out of first place (in the MWC)," said McCracken. "We have the talent to be a conference contender. Our goal is to be up to speed with the other members of our conference."
McCracken views the Utes' tough schedule as an advantage for them. That schedule includes 12 tournaments.
"Many of our tournaments will allow us to compete against teams outside of our region," he said. "That in turn, will help us prepare for the conference championships."
The Ute squad will feature two seniors, two juniors and five freshman. Utah will also have to deal with losing Garrett Clegg and Luke Swilor to graduation. Clegg was a two-time all-MWC performer, as well as an NCAA West Regional qualifier. Swilor showed great consistency during his time at Utah and was a scholar-athlete.
Senior Ashdon Woods looks to continue his solid play in his final year as a Ute. Woods led Utah at the MWC Championships last year with a 14th-place finish. The Wyoming native returns to Utah after winning the Wyoming State Amateur tournament for the second year in a row, out-distancing the field by eight strokes to claim the 2004 title.
Fellow senior Jake Sowby looks to provide leadership to the team. Sowby is an academic all-conference golfer, as well as a member of Utah's Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
Juniors Nick Micek and Steve Newren return to round out Utah's upper classmen. Micek competed in two tournaments, with his highest finish coming at the Ron Moore Classic. Newren saw action in five tournaments for the Utes during the 2003-04 campaign. His top finish was 81st at the Wolf Pack Invite.
Red-shirt freshman Chace Bickmore looks to compete in his first collegiate tournament this year. Bickmore was the Utah Junior Golf Player of the Year in 2002, while finishing in the top five in seven of the 15 junior tournaments he competed in during 2002.
Utah's roster will boast four local freshmen this year. Dustin Pimm joins the Utes after qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Championship with a first-place finish during the qualifying round. Pimm, who played at Alta High School, is from Sandy, Utah. Ogden resident Daniel Smith looks to contribute this year after finishing second behind Pimm at the qualifying round for the U.S. Amateur Championship. Nick Carter, who was the 2003 Utah 3A State Champion, joins the Utes after playing for Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City. Rounding out the newcomers is Chris Gresh, of Cottonwood High School.
With such a talented incoming class, Utah will count on its freshmen to make an impact. "I'm looking to the freshman to contribute immediately," said McCracken. "We are pretty deep as far as skills and talent go, and I expect there will be a constant competition for the traveling spots during the year. I wouldn't be suprised if we see a lot of different traveling squads with this team."
The balance of four returning upperclassmen and the addition of four all-state performers is expected to put Utah golf among the top of the league.
"We aren't rebuilding," notes McCracken. "We want to build on what we have, and it looks like there is a bright future ahead of us."