April 28, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Hosting is a major undertaking. There are so many people involved with putting on a championship--from the superintended, to the people here at the golf course, to our committees that are doing the marketing and PR, just making sure everything is ready to go. I have had quite an experience working with these folks, and they are doing a great job. I look forward to a terrific championship, even if we get a little bit of rain.
You have had some definite high points of the spring and fall season. How do you hope to capitalize on those here at Big Tens?
The high points have been more frequent than low points, and we will essentially build off of the high points. That is how we will go into this weekend, taking stock in our good performances and not taking anything for granted. I think we will be ready to go.
How has it been balancing the extra time commitment and challenges of hosting with also getting your team ready to compete this weekend?
It has been difficult this year. What we did, was move our spring championship into the fall. We were really busy in July ramping up for our tournament in Nemacolin. My assistant coach Jon Dunlap was really involved with that. In the midst of it all, I was busy in the winter because I chaired the Big Ten Match Play Championship. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and said you can do that as well. With great help from Mark Hankins at Iowa and Steve Bailey at Northwestern, we were able to pull that off. That was a major undertaking trying to run a tournament down in Fort Lauderdale. All the while with that going on, we were amping up for this Big Ten Championship, which involves a lot of long-term planning. A lot of what you see out on the golf course is not done in two months. This has been at least six years in the making with some of the renovations we have done to our golf course. It has been big, but I think in the spring, with the committee work that we have done, it was a goal of ours to coach and host. We have been able to coach our players and it hasn't really been that big of a distraction.
Can you talk about the differences between this time you are hosting and the last time you hosted in 1996?
Twelve years ago, '96, the equipment was not as developed as it is today. Now the ball is going further because of the build of the ball and clubs. It seems that the athletes are more highly trained, physically. As far as our golf course is concerned, we have put in over 600 yards and added some hazards. It has become a different test, but a fair test. It is what we call in golf "right in front of you." There are not a lot of hidden agendas out there. In '96, we overdosed on the rough. As an Ohio State player said to me in '96 "nice salads, coach." So we backed off with that, but I guess we will see what the Big Ten players think when they get here. I have been walking around out there, and you can either catch a good one, or get yourself into big trouble in our roughs.
What are the conditions of the golf course now?
Our fairways are fast and our greens are firm. With the incoming weather, it could change to fairways that are moderately quick and our greens could soften up. That will make for better scoring. The golf course will actually play longer. Though the ball won't roll as much, the golf ball will stay in the fairway much more easily. As golfers know, that is a much more score-able condition. If it stays firm and fast, it is going to be one heck of a challenge for the guys in the tournament.
Who are some of the front-runners both individually and as a team that we should look for this weekend?
Jon Dunlap: In this year's championship, you definitely have some top-ranked teams in there. Indiana is in there, ranked 10th in the country. Illinois is ranked 16th--I believe right now. If you were to just go based on rankings, those would be the two favorites. I think Illinois has won six tournaments this year and Indiana won the Big Ten Match Play and played in the National Collegiate Match Play, where they were the No. 1 seed at that event. Those two teams have done very well. Northwestern won at Ohio State a few weeks back--They have a solid squad. We won at Pinhurst, so if you look across the board, I believe 10 or 11 of the teams have won at least once this year, if not multiple times. It is a very competitive conference. In terms of individuals, currently the No.1 ranked player in the country plays for Indiana, Jorge Campillo. He won the championship last year at Michigan State. Obviously repeating is difficult to do, but he is the top-ranked player in the conference. Kevin Foley, one of our players, ranks in the top five in the conference. Bo Hoag, the sophomore from Ohio State, is top five in the conference. It is going to come down to the team who keeps the golf course in front of them and plays consistently and makes the most putts.
Greg Nye: Year in and year out, we have a very competitive conference. I just got e-mail this morning from the Executive Director of the Coaches Association of America and that was his observation. He was saying just how incredibly tight our conference was as far as pair idée. We have had a lot of people winning all year. We not only have had teams knocking off teams within our conference, but big-time national opponents. This could really be something this weekend. We could have one heck of a contest this weekend.
Can you talk a little bit about Kevin Foley's year and if there is an advantage for him heading into the tournament on his home course?
This home-course advantage stuff, you have to attribute to Mt. Nittany and you have to be very aware of the valley effect and all that stuff. Kevin is well versed, and he should have a huge advantage based on the valley effect. In all seriousness, he has familiarity with the golf course and I think that there can be an advantage playing at home, but it also has its difficulties too. He should be confident going in. He has a tendency to hit his golf ball straight--that could be an advantage if he gets going with that. I look forward to watch him have a real good opportunity here in this championship.