Mark Twain may have called it a “good walk spoiled,” but five afternoons a week seven players from Eastern’s golf team return to the links for as many holes as they can get in before the sun sets.
“Sometimes people think of golf as a recreation – but it is a legitimate NCAA sport, it is a team sport,” head coach Mark Birtwistle said.
According to Birtwistle, who’s coaching the team for the first time this year, practice has been an important part of his efforts to build up the program.
In previous years, he noted, the team was only allowed to practice three days a week, and then they could only play nine holes a day.
“One of the different things I tried to do this year was to get them out playing more,” Birtwistle said.
In their first two matches, the golfers placed fourth (out of six) and fourth (out of five). In their third match, they placed 20th.
“I think we definitely have room for improvement,” junior Jared Krupp said. “This year has definitely been a struggling year, but I think we’re on the way up. We’re seeing signs of that improvement.”
Scoring is on a team basis. Each team submits a final roster of five golfers who will play during a match, and four of those scores will count toward the total team score.
On an individual level, Krupp has led the team with rounds of 84, 85 and 86. His brother, first-year Drew Krupp, and sophomore Trevor Wampler have also posted consistent scores.
“I have an assistant coach and we’re just trying to build technique on some of the short game stuff,” Birtwistle said. Course management is also a priority for the coaches.
“We’re just trying to get them some experience, some better knowledge of the game,” Birtwistle said.
Krupp also cited the short game and “greens in regulation” or the ability to get the ball on the green with two or more strokes left to make par as areas for the team to work on.
The team has two “home” courses at which it practices, the St. Davids course and the Jeffersonville public golf course. The team will be hosting its first home match at St. Davids on April 10.
“I’ve definitely improved [since playing for Eastern]. Golf isn’t a cheap sport. When I play for Eastern, I play nice courses for free,” Krupp said.
When asked who he was rooting for in this weekend’s Masters tournament, Krupp said, “Phil Mickelson – he’s left-handed, and I’m left-handed, so I’m a big Phil Mickelson fan.”