Feb. 10, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Greg Nye, Head Coach
Q: Coach, What does it mean for the program to host the Big Tens this year? How important is it that for you and the program in general?
A: Well, it's about my 17th year. We hosted this back in '96 and I am certainly proud to be hosting it, particularly based on that we have recently renovated the golf course and I'm really interested to see how it's received; the new tee boxes, and the additional yardage and the placement of the hazards. The last time we hosted the championship the golf course was really in nice condition, but it was a bit short, and over the next few years it seemed even shorter and became somewhat easily dominated by even average teams. We have had a couple of events there since the renovation and we already know it plays considerably harder. I think we are going to find that a true champion will emerge because the test of golf is strong. It means a lot to me personally because I was very involved with the renovations on that end. You are always excited for this particular group of young people on our team that have the opportunity to host because it is only coming through [Penn State] once every 11 years. We were going to host it a couple of years ago, but the renovations were not completed. We had a couple of glitches so we had to back it up. I don't know if you knew that but we were originally scheduled to host before the women's championship here. That's actually good because I know that with the new superintendent having coached St. Pierre's team, running a great championship there last year, that we, with just a little bit of help from mother nature, are going to have a pretty exciting championship. The Big Ten network is a little bit further along and we'll probably know a little more about how to televise on this golf course and those things are really exciting as well. And we've got a team that I think is moving forward and hopefully we'll take some steps here this spring and be competitive in this event as well.
Q: How much of an advantage is it for your players to be playing on their course in the Big Ten championship as opposed to somewhere else? In relation to the other teams, how much of a competitive edge is it for you?
A: It is kind of a double-edged sword-- sometimes you can cut up the competition-- sometimes you get cut up. There's a little bit of heat on the home team because the home team is supposed to do well. Just like any team when they're at home, you're supposed to do well, there's supposed to have an advantage. Sometimes when you're that player, and I certainly was that player and remember being that player in college, it seemed a little bit of an advantage. There was another intangible there that I had to deal with that I know the players deal with. Picking a club, the appropriate club, going in targets, like picking a club on 14. Pretty scary shot if you don't know what you're doing on 14 and a whole lot more comforting when you know you got the right club in your hand. That particular hole is all performance. If you feel like you're very decisive there and you've got the right tool, that's an advantage for sure, so it kind of goes both ways.
Q: Coach, you're currently ranked 8th in the Big Ten, coming off the fall season. What would you like, realistically, to see your team bump up to towards the end of the season?
A: Well we are playing in three moderately strong stroke play events. I think you'll see our ranking move into the 40's, high 30's, if we perform well in those three events. There's so much data in the Sagarin rankings, or the Golfweek rankings right now that it is fairly difficult to move up. Right now we are in the top 20% of all college teams. We have got 300 programs and probably 150 that are pretty high quality so to be in the 50's is good, qualifying for a regional, getting in the NCAA, we got to finish the year, 66.7 or a under to get in. If we were to go the national championship right now into the regionals, 10 of the 11 teams are in. That's a pretty strong conference and I think if you look at the average ranking of the teams in the Big Ten, and this may come out in the media next week, I don't know that the data's been crunched yet, but it may be the top golf conference in the country to date in this year, and it snows up here. That says a lot for the coaches and the programs.
Q: What areas as a team do you feel you're strongest in and weakest in?
A: I think in the strong category, I don't feel like the team is super inexperienced. I think we've got a number of players that know that the fall is over and are getting into that realm. One of the things that has been a weakness for us this past fall and is in a lot of golf programs, is who is playing in our fifth position and what kind of scores are we getting from our fifth player. You know we are playing five guys total and that's the spot that we have people in and out of and we are still really trying to see if we can find someone that can step up there. We are going into the spring with a couple of guys who don't have any experience with early spring golf like Tommy McDonagh (Wilton, Conn.) and Nick Archambault (St-Jean-Sur-Rich, Q.C., Canada) so that's going to be a challenge for them to get moving early. So Kevin's going to have to help them along a little bit with that and T.J. as well. They know they've been down that road a few times so that type of leadership is going to be critical. Coming out of the winter is tough and certainly going to Fort Lauderdale this week for four days and just being totally on for four days with golf is going to help. If we get any kind of weather at all between now and break, we can kind of keep after it and we'll have an extensive build up period for Pinehurst on break. That's our first stroke play event of the spring we know the golf course, we've played well there and I feel fairly confident that the team we are bringing there will have a great opportunity to do well.
Junior Kevin Foley (Sommerville, N.J.)
Q: Kevin, how are you guys preparing for playing top ten teams like Indiana and Illinois this weekend?
A: Well, we have been doing all that we can so far with the weather. We have been in Holuba Hall every week practicing for two hours. I think most of the guys have been pretty focused, especially the guys who are heading into the tournament this weekend. The lineup has already been chosen so everybody is pretty excited to get down there. The weather is nice today so like coach said, we'll be going outside to try and emulate the real thing that we will be doing down there. This is the first time we have been doing this, the Big Ten Match Play tournament this early in the season, usually we don't start until our spring break trip. Most of the teams are in the same boat as, as far as the time and the availability to prepare for this as far as the weather goes and everything. I know that we are doing all that we can and I think it'll be a pretty even playing field down there, because, most of the teams have had the same opportunities to prepare. Against top ten teams like Indiana and Illinois, I think everybody is still looking at this like this is their first event in the spring so it will be interesting to see how those teams that performed so well in the fall start off the spring season. You never know with the spring season starting, because everybody is coming off their summer performances into the fall, so teams generally perform a little bit better during the fall. So it'll be interesting to see how things go down there.
Q: Kevin, what are you looking to accomplish as a team this weekend at the Big Ten Match Play?
A: We haven't really set forth one main goal yet. As a team in total, we are excited to get down there and this is the first time we have done this sort of tournament, especially [since] the Big Ten was the first conference to sort of emulate the match play portion. That is what the NCAA Championship will be this year, so is the first time teams will get to experience this type of tournament play. It is different, in collegiate golf because we are so used to playing stroke play events so some people, just the nature of their play, are more suited, more geared towards match play. I know Tommy, my teammate, he's won the med-amateur two of the last three years, which is a match play event. Unfortunately he beat me in the final the one year to take his first crown. No, I'm happy for him, but like I said, some people are more geared towards that type of play so it will be interesting to see how our team does. You can be more aggressive in spots and it'll be interesting to see how things go. As a team, I'd say our goal is to get one of the top eight seeds and then from there, it's kind of hard to tell because in match play, anything can happen. I don't know if you understand the way that match play works, but literally anything can happen, it's not really one team has a huge advantage over another, it depends on how the whole team does in total. So, we are just going to try and do our best and see if we can get in those top eight teams, and then from there it's just three wins. I mean it seems easy in that logical fashion; it's only three wins until the championship. We are going to practice hard our first day down there, and hopefully we can perform well to the point where we will get a decent finish.
Gerg Nye: Yeah, we play Northwestern, I don't know if you see that, that is our opponent in the first round. As coaches, we were smart in how we organized this thing in that it is not a one and done tournament. If we are going all the way to south Florida we are going to get some golf in. So if we win the first round, and we go up against the number one seed, Illinois, great. We can beat Illinois, I know that, they're a good team, but I know in a match play format, a lot of things could happen and we could bump them off, but the great thing about this is if you do get knocked off, you'll just play other teams. You will move into consolation brackets and get some matches in. and so you're playing a great golf course so it should be a terrific experience. Our guys are not used to playing on TV. We have three hours of coverage, so that will be interesting. And Golfweek magazine is all over this thing, it is the only match play tournament in all of collegiate golf this year, which is amazing to me because all these conferences know that at the end of the year, or coming down to the end of the NCAA Championship, we break from a stroke play championship into a match play championship. I guess the Big Ten coaches are the true rocket scientists. We are the ones who figured it out and we ought to be getting busy with the match play tournament some time during the year. So my hat's off to my peers in the Big Ten for seeing that this was an important thing to do and we are going to be doing that this weekend.