By Rick Henneman
The Youngstown State University men’s golf team will enter this weekend’s Horizon League championship tournament, looking to end the season on a positive note. The fall season showed YSU head coach Tony Joy that his team could be successful during the spring.
Unfortunately for the Penguins, this season has been plagued with injuries to some of the top players on YSU’s roster.
“Steve Sveda had some back issues that caused him to miss some events,” Joy said. “Domenic Carano, who is the second best player on the roster as far as averages go, got sick in late March and hasn’t been able to play all spring. The results haven’t been there but I realize that there have been chemistry changes over the last few weeks.”
Joy also said that Sveda is back to about 90 percent and is expected to play in the championship this week.
The team as a whole had big shoes to fill even before the injuries this year with the absence of Brandon Pluchinsky. Pluchinsky was the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year and graduated after last season. He finished eighth in the championship last year.
With the absences of key players on the YSU team, younger and less experienced golfers have had to step up. Joy said that he is impressed with how they have been playing lately.
“The kids are getting better,” Joy said. “The ones that are traveling have a little more confidence because they weren’t thinking they were in the line-up originally. I saw some good things at Ball State last week and a couple good things a few weeks ago at IU [Indiana University] especially for some of the kids that I didn’t expect to be in the line-up.”
The Penguins have a history of performing well in the championship tournament. Last season, Sveda finished sixth in the tournament with a final round with a score of 76 while sophomore Jason McQuown finished thirtieth with a final round of 77.
The tournament will be held at the Mission Hills Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, where the Horizon League teams will take on one of the most difficult courses in the country. Joy believes that Sveda and McQuown’s experience on that course will give YSU an advantage.
“It’s a really difficult golf course,” Joy said. “You never know how the kids will react, but we have two guys that have played there before. If a couple of these teams have some newcomers that aren’t used to a conference championship on that type of course, the dynamics can change. Everyone has heard the war stories about that course.”
YSU will tee off earlier in round one on Sunday to their lower conference ranking. However, Joy believes that being on the course early will give the Penguins an advantage.
“We are going to go out and post some numbers early and with live scoring all the coaches will know what’s going on early,” Joy said. “We will be able to put some pressure on the top teams from the start.”
Regardless of the rankings, injuries or previous performances this season, Joy and the rest of the team are looking forward to playing against the best in the Horizon League. One or two great performances can change the outcome in any tournament setting.
“I’m optimistic and I’m not going down there thinking we are the lowest ranked team,” Joy said about the championship. “You have to be positive in a situation like this. You never know and you just have to tee it up and see what happens. The mindset is there and the rankings don’t mean a lot in a three-day event; anything can happen.”