No. 9 Auburn Golf Returns All Lettermen For 2011-12 Season
Sept. 6, 2011
AUBURN - The ninth-ranked Auburn men's golf team opens the 2011-12 season Friday at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, returning all student-athletes from a squad which over the past two years has racked up five team and five individual titles.
The Tigers look to defend two of its three 2010-11 team titles, returning to the Jerry Pate National Oct. 3-4 in Birmingham and the Schenkel Invitational March 16-18 in Statesboro, Ga. Sophomore Niclas Carlsson won the 2010 Jerry Pate, becoming the first Auburn freshman since Jimmy Green in 1988 to earn individual medalist honors and leading the Tigers to a team win over No. 1 Florida and No. 4 Alabama.
"Our schedule this year is one of the top 10, maybe top five in the country," said Auburn head coach Nick Clinard. "We have our work cut out for us as a team to prepare and perform at a high level. We are definitely coming into this season with high expectations. That's something that never changes at Auburn University."
The Gary Koch Invitational, co-hosted by Auburn and the University of Kentucky, has been moved from its traditional October date to early April, serving as the Tigers' regular season finale. The event, named for the PGA Tour great and NBC telecaster, will again be played at Old Memorial Golf Club in Tampa, Fla.
"We have a lot of depth and a lot of talent returning and will have a great year if we continue to come with a strong work ethic and excitement about the future," said Clinard. "We have a great team chemistry. The guys all work, eat and live together. It's something that we as a coaching staff are thrilled about and believe that will help us going ahead as a program."
Although missing the opening event of the season while competing at the Walker Cup, the Tigers will be led by two-time All-American and junior Blayne Barber who recorded a 2010-11 team best 70.91 scoring average. The Lake City, Fla., native also represented Team USA in the 2011 Palmer Cup and is currently ranked as the No. 12 amateur in the world by the Scratch World Amateur Golf Rankings.
"Blayne will miss the first tournament of the year with the Walker Cup, but it is such a huge honor for him and his family for Blayne to get such an opportunity," said Clinard. "We've got some great young freshmen in Michael Johnson and Jake Mondy that bring enthusiasm and talent to the program. Moving forward, they are a huge part of our plan for the future of our program.
"Our sophomore class is another very talented group. That group will really shine and be a building block for the future. Obviously, Michael Hebert and Niclas Carlsson are going to be core guys. Will McCurdy is playing with a lot of confidence and exitement right now coming off an exceptional summer."
Carlsson and Hebert return as regulars from Auburn's 2010-11 top-five. Carlsson's 71.87 scoring average in 2010-11 moved him into seventh all-time on The Plains while Hebert finished in 10th with a 71.97. Barber and Hebert tied for the most rounds at par or better last season with 18, apiece.
In the off season, Carlsson was selected to represent his native Sweden in the 2011 World Amateur Team Championships.
Senior Will McCurdy returns from a summer loaded with amateur success that included a win at the 2011 Palmetto Am. The Fort Payne, Ala., native picked up an impressive seven amateur top-threes in 2011.
Junior Dominic Bozzelli and incoming freshmen Michael Johnson picked up amateur wins over the summer, as well, with Bozzelli winning the New York State Am and Johnson topping the field at his U.S. sectional qualifier. Johnson, from Birmingham, signed with the Tigers as the No. 7 collegiate recruit in the world.
Senior Kyle Kopsick returns with more career starts as an Auburn Tiger than anyone else on the team, having competed in 31 team events. The Chicago native won the 2009 Gary Koch Invitational while setting a new school record shooting a 9-under 63 in the second round of play.
Also looking to make their way into the Tigers' top-five for the season are 2010 Bluegrass Invitational champion John Stembridge and 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team member David Zickler. Senior Cory Gilmer competed in seven events in 2010-11 with his best finish coming at the Hootie at Bulls Bay, tying for 11th.
Junior Jackson Beindorf and sophomore Dan Stringfellow also got some
reps in 2010-11, contributing the the Tigers' victory at the 2011
Bluegrass Invitational. Incoming freshman Jake Mondy will look to
gain experience as the season progresses.
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