Sept. 12, 2006
On Auburn's strengths and weaknesses...
"Our strengths should be, simply put, everyone should be a year older and a year wiser, even the transfers coming in. They all played somewhere. The only person new in our fold over here is Brent Cooper, who was here at Auburn last year and didn't play. But he spent a year at Auburn, and he has grown up a year here. So everyone should be a year older and a year wiser. Any way you look at that, we should be a better team than last year. Just for the simple reason that everyone has had the opportunity to spend one more year to get older and get wiser. What they make of it, I have no way of knowing. On paper, that is the first view. You look at this, you say, we should have experience over last year. Last year we were starting freshman and sophomores and it showed. Im am hoping this year that we are starting sophomores and a bunch of juniors and seniors and I'm hoping that is going to show. Time will tell. We will just have to wait. I would say our strength would be that we have a lot of people that should have a good understanding of what is expected of them and what they need to be doing. Whether we are physically and mentally capable of doing that, we will see. But I know what our capabilities are."
On the newcomers...
"As of right now we have several new ones. Gordon Strother is a transfer from Chattanooga. He will be making our first trip, which is something that I am sure he is quite excited about. He ended up well under par for the qualifying process. He played solid all the way through. His high round all the way through the qualifier was 73. Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, he is in the fourth position and his highest round was a 73. When we have had some fabulous players here in the past, their highest round may have been a 76, a 77 or even a 78. He's in the fourth position, his highest number is a 73, so that is giving me cause to as least think that maybe we have a chance to start off as a pretty good team and develop into a great team by the time we get to the end of the year. Gordon was a good solid player for Chattanooga while he was there for two years. He had some outstanding summer golf. Hopefully his collegiate golf will pick up at Auburn where his summer amateur golf left off the last 2 seasons. He is a big, good looking kid. He hits the ball real well, he comes from a good background. He is from Sea Island, Ga., home to one of the greatest complexes in the world where we play our SEC Championship. He finished this qualifier averaging just over 70 per round, which is pretty darn good. We got high hopes for Gordon, and I know we are excited that he is going on the first trip with us.
"Brent Cooper is from Valley Head, Ala., in the Fort Payne area. He is a good Auburn kid. Obviously, he sacrificed. He could have gone to any number of colleges and probably played right off the bat. But he wanted to be at Auburn so bad, he came down here as a walk-on to give it a go. He had an extraordinary good summer. And every time that we would see him, he was beating two-thirds of our players who were in the field. So he kept catching my eye. I couldn't help but see him. He was right in front of me. Every time I would look at the results of four or five of our players in a tournament, he would beat most of them. Sometimes he'd beat all of them. And I kept seeing this. And obviously it became apparent to me that this young man was pretty good. He is one tremendously excited young man this fall. He ended up in the sixth position in the qualifier. He pushed our senior Andrew Medley right to the finishing wire. It was a great qualifier. He helped make Andrew a little bit better. He made himself a little better, and he made our team a little better as a result of his fine play. He has a future here. He is going to be a player. He has a lot of confidence on the golf course. We are excited about Brent and what he brings to the team and the good thing is he has four years of eligibility, so he is a redshirt freshman. His whole career is literally right out there in front of him for the next four years.
"Jake Nolen came to us from Birmingham Southern. He finished runner up to Patton Kizzire in the state junior three summers ago. He caught our eye. He is an extremely good student. I feel like he has a chance to help make us a better team if a few things come together for him. Jamie Bowen was MVP at Central Alabama Community College last year. He is in great shape.
"Nils Bjorling is from Borlange, Sweden. I'm hoping that little by little he is getting his feet under him and starting getting ready to play. He was part of Midland College's national junior college championship team. He missed the playoff forr the individual title by one stroke, so he was playing really well at the end of the year last year. We are hoping by spring time that he will be a big boost for our program. And we'll need one more solid player who will step up and make something happen.
"I am a firm believer that you are only a good as the players you leave at home every week. You have to have someone back at the house that wants your spot to make you a better team. You have to be looking over your shoulder even if your looking straight ahead. And I think we have the makings. I saw more anxiousness, more anticipation, more wanting to know what the scores were in this qualifier than I have seen in a long time."
On changes in his 23 years at Auburn...
"In Division I golf, it's the competition. The competition has gotten better and better. It has just exploded in that last 23 years. When I first came to Auburn, we had a philosophy that you try to find three golfers who can help you win the tournament and two to keep you from losing it. That was going to be your five man combination. If you could three great players and two that could just hold on, you could win golf tournaments. That is no longer the case. You must have five people capable of winning the golf tournament one through five. Division I golf has improved drastically during my 23 years here.
"What has happened at Auburn? We have improved drastically. We are a whole lot better. The payers of today are so much better than the players of yesterday. It is unbelievable. Players that we were recruiting to come in here and be those just hold on type players, players who could maybe eventually develop into pretty good players, they're dominating players now. The competition is so strong. You know that every week you go to a golf tournament, you better be playing your best. Or you could go out there and play well and be in the middle of the pack. It's just that tough right now."
On the team...
"We have the capability of having three really good six players sitting back at the house, which means we could go as deep as eight pretty good players if a few things come together. That is starting pretty quick, pretty early. With that amount of anticipation, if all the players that are stacked in the starting positions are made of the right kind of stuff, the are going to work harder because they're going to want their spot every week, and in order to have that spot, they will have to work hard to hold on to it. That's why I feel like we have a chance by the end of the year to be a pretty good golf team. Who knows? Maybe we can be a pretty good golf team to start with.
"Steven Groover stepped up and moved to a new level at the end of last year. He was a player that we were not afraid to take to any tournament at any given time. He had a good summer this year but he struggled a little bit in the qualifier. Got off to a sluggish start and then was fighting back. I know what Steven is going to be able to do before the year is over because he showed me last year.
"Jay Moseley qualified in number one spot. He is playing the best golf on the team. He is very confident, and he is hitting the ball very solidly. He has a better than average short game, but more than anything right now, he has all the confidence in the world going for him. He feels good about his game and he knows that going through this golf tournament, he has a chance to win it. I know that he is going to go up there with that attitude and approach it in that manner. We need to have more people with that mindset.
"Patton Kizzire's pedigree is awesome. He'll be in the two spot for us this week. Patton finished five strokes behind Jay in the qualifier. Both of them were well under par, and I feel like their top end is as good as they want it to be. They can play with anyone in Division I golf on any given day. Jay has proven it, and so has Patton.
"As far as overall performance average, Glenn Northcutt is our top performer returning. He is going into his sophomore season and is a great, solid player for us. Andrew Medley is our most experienced player. Our senior barely being in our top five tells me a little something about the people that are stacked at the top. We have any number of talented players that are back here at the house that are going to be fighting really, really hard next week to get in the lineup for our next tournament at Shoal Creek. They are not going to want to sit at home. They want to make that next trip, so they will be working hard back here at the house trying to get in that lineup. The guys playing in that tournament have the opportunity to hold their spot by playing well in that tournament."
On the schedule...
"You can't say for sure yet, because you don't know how the year is going to stack up, but this could go down as our most ambitious schedule that we have ever had. We are missing two of the premier events on the annuals schedule in the Preview and the Las Vegas tournament (Southern Highlands). The Preview is the biggest and best tournament in the fall, and the Las Vegas tournament is the biggest and best tournament in the spring. So we are missing the premier event of each of the seasons. We lost the preview, but this year we did qualify to play in the Callaway Match Play Championship, which is like the national championship of the fall. By finishing in the top 20 in nationals last year, we qualified to get in the field. I was very pleased and proud of our players for doing that. We are going be one of the lower seed, and we are likely going to have to play one of the top seeds in the first round. That's okay. In order to win the tournament, you have to beat the best anyway. There are very few weak golf courses, very few weak fields. Again, depending on how the teams in these tournaments turn out, it can be a very ambitious schedule. If we are competitive within this schedule, we have a chance to have a really good year. But every week, we are going to a bigger, better situation. You can't look ahead because every week is very difficult, very demanding."
On the Carpet Capital Collegiate...
"The Carpet Capital is one of the top two or three events in the entire country. They do a fabulous job on the Farm Golf Course, which is a great golf course. It has hosted many, many championships, many USGA events over the years. It's a great way to start the year. There aren't any weak teams there. It is a good, solid field. I doubt if anyone is mentioning us as a pre-tournament favorites, because people are looking at us as a team that lost the only potential all-star that we had last year. Personally, I kind of like the situation we are in right now. I feel like we are under the radar right now. No one is thinking very much of us at this point in time. I think our players are beginning to formulate an idea of what kind of team we have the capability of being. We still have to get the job done on the golf course. When you start off with tournaments like this one, you better be ready."