Big questions surround the men’s and women’s golf teams in the early weeks of September.
The clear question on the men’s team is if and how it will be able to replace Lloyd Jefferson Go, a player Pirates’ head coach Clay White called “the eraser” because of his ability to make up for his teammates’ mistakes.
Go left Seton Hall as arguably the best golfer to play for the Pirates, and according to White, replacing him will have to be a team effort if they are to have a successful season.
“All of the guys are going to have to pick it up, it is just a matter of getting a little better,” White said. “Obviously, L.J. [Lloyd Jefferson] was a special player, so it will take a collective effort of consistently low scores to replace his production.”
From Sept. 9 to 10, the men’s team competed in the Alex Lagowitz Memorial tournament at Seven Oaks Golf Club in Hamilton, N.Y., finishing fourth out of 16 schools. Junior Chris Yeom led the team with a fifth place finish, shooting a 3-over-par. It was Yeom’s first top-5 finish, an indicator that he could be primed for a big season. Junior Gen Nagai also had a solid weekend, shooting a 7-over-par to finish in 16th place. Nagai shot an even-par 72 in the final round to move the Pirates up a spot on the leaderboard.
White is optimistic about his two freshman, Andres Acevedo and Gregor Tait, although he hesitated putting too much weight on their shoulders noting that they must first learn the nuances of collegiate golf. One of those nuances is risk-aversion, with golfers usually motivated to take risks for their own rise or fall, but collegiate golf discourages risks because it threatens the fate of the entire team.
Tait had an impressive debut, shooting a 10-over-par to finish tied for 22nd overall, while Acevedo rounded out the Pirates scorecard with a 24-over-par.
On the women’s front, the question is not how the team will replace key parts, but rather how far experience and talent can take it this season with new coach Natalie Desjardins. Desjardins comes to Seton Hall after spending 10 seasons as an athlete and coach at her alma mater, and steps into a team that senior captain Cassie Pantelas considers the strongest in program history.
“We are so strong individually that when we come together, our talent and depth mean that we can compete with anyone,” Pantelas said.
Although the Pirates have young talent, they have plenty of experience to compliment it. Senior captains Macky Fouse and Pantelas have been on two Big East championship teams, while freshman Mia Kness and sophomore Sammie Staudt have the potential to grow as their collegiate careers just get started. Pantelas believes that leadership and young talent go hand in hand.
“Macky and I have been around the block so we can offer younger players knowledge and advice until they get experience,” Pantelas said.
The women’s team opened its season on Sept. 10 to 11 at the William and Mary Invitational, finishing in third-place. The duo of sophomores, Lizzie Win and Maddie Sager, along with Pantelas, captured top-10 finishes to lead the Pirates, while Kness and Staudt also had solid a tournament for the Pirates.
The season is starting with big expectations, as Pantelas believes that with a good mix of veterans and young players, along with Desjardins’ leadership, the Pirates have another Big East championship in their future.
The men’s team returns to the course next week, Sept. 18 and 19, at the Hartford Hawks Invitational in South Kent, Conn., while the women return to action Sep. 23 and 24 when they travel to Penn State for the Nittany Lion Invitational.
Andrew Lombardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lombardo_andrew.