Wildcat Golfers Hope to Continue Winning Tradition Under New Coach
Over the past decade, Pennsylvania College of Technology's golf team has established itself as one of the best in the country among non-NCAA colleges. Six consecutive conference championships, a 166-1-1 record in its last 168 matches and a national championship back that up.
That winning tradition was built by coach Chet Schuman, who retired after last season when the team captured the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national title during its first year in the conference, and it looks to continue under new coach Matt Haile when the Wildcats open their season Wednesday on their home course at the White Deer Golf Complex.
"Overall, I think we have great group of guys with a lot of potential. They are gentlemen of the game and I look for them to do well this season," assessed Haile, a former Penn College golfer who was a key contributor to the team's incredible win streak that reached 155 matches before being broken last season.
"We had a number of kids come and try out for a spot on the team and competition was tough. I feel all 10 players have what it takes to play well, but competition is going to be tough for guys fighting for a spot for the traveling six," Haile said.
"I do not foresee having a set-in-stone starting six guys who will compete at each event. Our top three guys Eric Schall (junior/Jersey Shore), Craig Flint (senior/Port Allegany) and Dean Bell (junior/Schwenksville) will be vital to our lineup. There will be some jockeying of positions in our four, five and six men. We have a pretty young squad with some guys that will need to prove themselves. I look forward to see some of our young players really excel as freshmen," the coach continued.
In addition to Flint, Schall and Bell, Kurt Linhart (sophomore/Zionsville) returns. According to Haile, Flint and Schall played in all of the team's matches last year, including the Penn State University Athletic Conference championships where the team claimed its fifth straight title, while Bell and Linhart competed in only one event each.
"Looking at these stats, I'd say we have a pretty young squad. The rest of the six are new to the team, but I believe they are going to do well for us come competition time. All 10 guys have the ability to put up some good scores," Haile said.
Schall and Flint have been scoring in the low- to mid-70s, while Bell and Linhart are shooting in the upper 70s to low 80s.
"If we can stay consistent with those guys and have the freshmen step up I think we'll be in contention for another championship," Haile said.
"It's not going to come easy. New Kensington is going to have a good team this year and they were the ones that beat us last year. It should be interesting," he added.
Also on the roster are Zachary Plannick (junior/Coraopolis), Steve Beach (freshman/Roaring Springs), Kevin Durnin (freshman/Havertown), Dan Krammer (freshman/Burlington, Vt.), Joe Peters (sophomore/Harrisburg) and Hans Reisinger (sophomore/Selinsgrove).
"I believe our team strength lies in the dedication of our players. Our guys have a lot of heart and they are out on the course each day working hard on their game, from hitting buckets of balls to spending valuable time on the putting green," Haile said.
"I believe our biggest weakness is around the greens. Our guys are hitting the ball a mile, but it comes down to the old adage "drive for show, putt for dough.' We will be working a lot on this throughout the season to try and improve their consistency around the greens. I see the potential to knock at least 3 to 4 shots off each of their scores. With a little coaching and encouragement I believe our staff can accomplish this," Haile said.
"The key to our success this year is going to be the same as previous years. We need to play solid, consistent golf. This is what makes a team excel because golf can definitely have its ups and downs. Our guys just need to be able to overcome this challenge," he continued.
"I believe we will be in contention for another PSUAC championship, but we will need our young squad to adapt quickly to the courses they play. This is one of the biggest disadvantages to some freshmen, playing a course blind. I have confidence in our squad, but know it's not going to come easy. Everyone is out to beat us," Haile said.
Haile views the fact that his team is opening at home on White Deer's Challenge course as a plus.
"We practice there every day so the guys know the course. It's great to have that home-course advantage; to know the course and be comfortable with it -- not hitting blind shots," he said.
Haile noted that Schuman has been a great help assisting in his transitioning. "There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that I never thought of when I was a player," he said.
Also helping with the team has been Tara Trupp, a graduate and former player at Kutztown University.
"Golf is a coed sport (at Penn College) and hopefully she will help attract some female golfers to the program. "¦ I it would be great to see a female golfer come to Penn College because she wants the education that we offer and it just so happens that she is a good golfer and can make our starting six," Haile added.