Sep 6, 2013
WACO, Texas -
The Baylor men's golf team returns four of its top five players from last year's team that made its 16th consecutive NCAA regional appearances.
Head coach Greg Priest enters his 11th year at Baylor in 2013-14. He led the Bears to seven top-5 finishes in their 12 regular-season tournament appearances a season ago, including a win at the 2012 Warrior-Wave Intercollegiate. Baylor has been selected to the NCAA Tournament every year during Priest's tenure, and the Bears have one of the nation's longest active streaks of postseason appearances. This season, they're looking to go even further into postseason play.
"Our goals are to win a Big 12 championship and to make it to nationals," Priest said. "But we have got to let the process take care of itself, one tournament at a time, really down to one shot at a time. We are going to just try to control what we can control."
In order to achieve these goals, Priest is having his players focus even more on the mental aspect of the game.
"We are trying to be tougher," Priest said. "We want to be mentally tougher than we have been in the past. That is one of our goals to go into tournaments and not get distracted and play with confidence. We are trying to focus more on the process and not worry about the outcome."
Returning at the top of Baylor's lineup is junior Kyle Jones, who finished in the top 10 individually in three tournaments last year, including an individual win at the UTSA Oak Hills Invitational. Jones led the Bears with a 72.46 stroke average in 2012-13.
Fellow junior Filippo Zucchetti also returns after recording three top-10 finishes last year, and he finished third among Baylor players with a 73.25 stroke average. Even with the pair of experienced juniors returning, perhaps the biggest lift for the Bears will come with the return of fifth-year senior Jerry Ruiz, who redshirted last season. Ruiz has a 74.63 stroke average in 22 events played over his first three seasons at Baylor.
Ruiz is back in the lineup for Baylor this year and will compete in the Bears' first tournament of the season, the 2013 Gopher Invitational. Jones, Zucchetti and Ruiz will be joined in the lineup by junior Mikkel Bjerch-Andresen and sophomore Andreas Gjesteby.
Baylor also welcomes back junior Niclas Mansson, who had two top-10 finishes for the Bears last year, as well as sophomore Charles Neel White.
Even with so much experience returning, Baylor has a wealth of talent coming in with five newcomers. Patrick Bailey, Jackson Heazel, Luke Neeley, Nick Thornton and Diego Trevino will all debut with the Bears this season.
"It kind of keeps all of the guys on their toes knowing they have to go out and give their best every single day," Priest said. "They can't take a break, they can't just show up and think they are going to beat these guys."
Bailey is a sophomore from Houston, Texas, who sat out last season, while Heazel (Atlanta, Ga.), Neeley (Mansfield, Texas), Thornton (Boerne, Texas) and Trevino (The Woodlands, Texas) all joined the Bears out of high school and have four years of eligibility remaining.
Baylor opens the 2013-14 season at Minnesota's Gopher Invitational, a two-day, 54-hole event that tees off Sunday at the Windsong Farms Golf Club in Independence, Minn. Baylor's fall schedule also features the Fighting Illini Invitational in Olympia Fields, Ill., the Rod Myers Invitational in Durham, N.C., the Baylor-hosted Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in Dallas, Texas and the Warrior-Wave Intercollegiate in Kauai, Hawaii.