The Virginia men's golf team is ranked No. 19 by Golfstat and No. 25 by Golfweek as it prepares to play in this week's VCU Shootout. The Cavaliers will tee it up Monday and Tuesday at Hermitage Country Club in Richmond. Head coach Bowen Sargent talks to VirginiaSports.com about the team's early-season success and this week's tournament.
Question: The team got off to a strong start, finishing fourth at the Maryland Intercollegiate with Ben Kohles tying for first place. Talk about that experience.
Sargent: Ben had an exceptional tournament. The other players didn't play as well as we probably expected, but a fourth-place finish as a team was good. We ended up beating Kent State, and they are always a top-25 or top-30 team by the end of the year. It was nice to pick up some wins against some teams like that, which will help our ranking as we go further into the season.
Question: How fulfilling was it to see Kohles claim his first college win?
Sargent: He has progressed nicely in a little over the year since he's been here. It was nice to see all of the hard work he has put into his game finally pay off. It is very difficult to win in this game. Every time you tee it up, there are about 100 guys in the field competing against you, so the odds of winning are small. He is very deserving of that win. I think it is the first of many.
Question: One of the players he beat was NC State's Matt Hill, the 2009 NCAA Champion and College Golfer of the Year.
Sargent: He definitely took note of that. As we were waiting for the scores to come in, Matt was one of the players still out there playing with a chance to win because NC State was in the wave of teams right behind us. There were three or four guys out there still playing after BK had finished his round that he kind of had to dodge some bullets to see if he was going to win. Once he saw Matt's score go up, I think he felt much more relieved. He knew if nothing else, he was going to beat him for certain. That's a great accomplishment given Matt's season last year.
Question: Ben said he worked hard in the summer to improve his putting. Have you noticed that?
Sargent: It was very clear from day one this fall that he was putting a lot more like he did last fall. For whatever reason, he got off base in the spring. His stroke looks more compact, more technically sound, more like it was last fall.
Question: What are your expectations for this week's VCU Shootout?
Sargent: It is a very strong field again. It is a little stronger and a couple of teams deeper than last year. Our expectations are to win it. VCU has a good team this year. They played very well the first couple of rounds up at Maryland. They'll be tough there. Wake Forest will bring a good team there. It will be a strong tournament, but like I said, our expectation is to go there to win it.
Question: You are playing several individuals in other tournaments this fall. What is behind that approach?
Sargent: They changed the rule this year to where it gives you a little more flexibility in terms of having individuals who can compete in tournaments. That was one of the strategies going into this year - to try and get more tournament playing time to some of the guys who may not be making the top five. Our lineup stayed very consistent last year, so some of the guys who stayed home, when we played in tournaments, were not getting the experience they probably should have. I felt one of the things we needed to do was develop those guys. One or two years down the road we are going to need them and we want them to get that experience of playing in tournaments. We are a little top heavy with juniors and seniors right now. I can see them playing a lot more given their experience. So, I wanted to give these guys the opportunity to play and get the feel for college golf so when it comes their time, they will step up and be ready to play.
Question: How much fun has it been to watch former UVa golfer Steve Marino compete in this year's FedEx Cup Playoffs?
Sargent: It has been neat. The whole FedEx Cup has been fun to watch. Especially for him as a UVa alum and he has played so well in all of the events. He has been among the leaders in a lot of these. He's come pretty close a couple of times. Playing in The TOUR Championship is a great way for him to be able to end his season.