While some teams prefer to schedule a few easy opponents to start a season, Idaho men’s golf coach John Means wants his team playing the best competition right from the start.
“This team is good, so they’re playing in very strong tournaments against very good teams,” Means said about the five tournaments the Vandals are scheduled to play in this fall.
Up first, the Husky Invitational, which takes place Monday and Tuesday in Cle Elum, Washington, at Suncadia’s Tumble Creek Golf Course.
“It’s a very strong field at a really tough golf course,” Means said. “If they find themselves struggling, they’re going to get their butts handed to them … you gotta learn how to grind.”
One of those strong teams is tournament host Washington. The Huskies enter as the No. 17-ranked team in the country, according to Golfweek. They also have the No. 38-ranked amateur in the world, junior Corey Pereira, leading them.
“Ever since my freshman year, our tournaments get more and more competitive each year,” senior Scott Riley said. “Playing against Pac-12 teams, like UW coming up … it really gives us a chance to go out and prove ourselves against these bigger schools.”
The Vandals are no slouch either. The reigning Big Sky champions start the season as the No. 62-ranked team in the country, according to Golfweek. It’s a ranking that has steadily improved under Means’ tutelage.
Riley said it is his coach’s determination and knowledge of the game that has made the program so successful.
“He makes us leave everything else behind and focus on the ultimate goal, the national championship,” Riley said of Means. “When he got here, it was about being able to compete with big schools and now that’s not what we’re trying to do, we go out to win. He is incredibly fun to be around and he is the head of this Vandal golf family.”
Means will have the challenge of replacing Jared du Toit,who led the team in scoring last season with an average score of 69.61. The junior from Kimberley, British Columbia, decided to transfer and take his talents to Arizona State to be a part of one of the top programs in the country.
“Jared is a great player and great friend, and I love the guy but he’s got to do what he’s got to do,” Riley said. “There is no sour taste in our mouth about it. That was his decision and we miss him, but I think we got more than a capable team here and the guys are just going to get better … We plan on seeing him at the NCAAs.”
Two newcomers that have made a good early impression on Means are freshmen Jake Scarrow and Enrique Marin. Both bring impressive resumes to Moscow.
Scarrow, who hails from British Columbia, won the British Columbia Junior Boys Championship, finished ninth at the BC Amateur Championship and was selected to the All-Canadian team that played in England against the English All-Star team.
“I mean his credentials are great,” Means said. “All we have to do is get him acclimated to being in college and hopefully he can step up and play.”
Marin, who hails from Spain, earned a spot on the Spanish boys junior national team over the summer.
“Beautiful golf swing, he hits the ball really well and a great putter,” Means said. “He’s a freshman, he’s nervous, he’s new, so you gotta break through that freshman stuff and when he does he’ll start shooting some great scores and put pressure on the guys ahead of him.”
Marin, Scarrow and the rest of the golf team prepared for the season’s first tournament by making the trip to Suncadia last weekend, and played the course itself, Riley said.
“Beautiful course, but I think it’s going to be tough,” Riley said. “I think that puts us at an advantage because we’re always here practicing on the Palouse (Ridge golf course).”
Means said he has a great team coming back and his expectations are to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
“If your team is strong, you play against the best competition you can find and teach them how to grind because everybody is firing,” Means said.
Korbin McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KorbinMcD_VN