The Stetson men’s golf team will close a stretch of four tournaments over three weeks when the Hatters host the Stetson/CFSC Invitational Tournament at Victoria Hills Golf Club.
The event will get started on Monday morning at 7:15 am when the nine-team, 45-player field opens a 36-hole day of competition. The Hatters will play the first two rounds on Monday with the three-time defending tournament champions from Florida Gulf Coast as well as the team from UCF, which is making its first appearance in the event.
While the Hatters will be playing on their home course for the tournament, head coach Bob Weickel doesn’t think there is much of a home-course advantage.
“There is an advantage to a point, but most of these teams have played here before,” Weickel said. “This is the first time in years that UCF has been in our tournament, and it is the first time for Savannah State. I would love to say that we are the favorites, but Florida Gulf Coast has been tough to beat here the last few years.”
The other teams in the field for the men’s tournament, which will be played simultaneously with the women’s Holiday Inn Express/Hatter Classic, are Bethune-Cookman, Lipscomb, Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and USC Upstate. The men’s teams will open play on the front nine and the women will begin play on the back nine on both days of play.
“Technically, I would think that Bethune-Cookman should be the favorite,” Weickel said. “They have some very talented players and have played very well this fall. UCF should also be considered a favorite because they have been ranked for most of the fall.”
Another top team in the field is Lipscomb, which comes into the event as the only team ranked among the top 50 in the nation according to Golfstat.com. The Bison are currently 42nd in the country with a 73.73 stroke average for the year.
For the Hatters, the only concern going into the tournament might be fatigue, but Weickel said what he wants to see is more consistent play from his young team.
“We have been playing a lot lately, but I have given them some days off here and there, so they should be ready to play,” Weickel said. “The big thing I am looking for is some consistency. We have proven that we can threaten in tournaments, but we have not been able finish. We need to have the consistency to produce winning scores without shooting ourselves in the foot.”
If results so far this fall are any indication, the Hatters can expect to see freshman Dustin Dingus (Palm Harbor, Fla.) in contention near the top of the tournament field. The youngster has been at or near the top of the leaderboard in the last two events the Hatters have played in and earned A-Sun Player of the Week honors last week.
“Dingus has been in contention in these tournaments, but in the last round the pressure has gotten to him a little,” Weickel said. “The thing is, when you have a guy like Dustin, and like we had with Sam Ryder, the other guys start to count on him.”
It was Ryder who took top individual honors at this event a year ago, posting a nine-under par score of 207 to win by six shots. FGCU took top team honors for the third straight year, winning by 23 shots with a six-over par score of 870. The Eagles won the tournament in 2010 and 2009 with scores of 13 under par 851 both years. Those are the only two under par winning scores for the tournament since the event moved to Victoria Hills in 2003.
“I’d be surprised if the winning individual score is not five or six under par,” Weickel said. “Sam was nine under last year, but most years it has been five or six. For the team, I would think somewhere around even par would win it. It used to be is you shot 296 or 300 you’d have a chance to win on this course. Now, you had better be at par (288) or a little better to have a chance.”
While the winning scores have come down over the years at Victoria Hills, Weickel said the course is among the toughest his team plays on all year.
“I think this is one of the toughest courses that we play during the year,” Weickel said. “There are other courses with tougher holes but, overall, I think this course is as tough as any, and team scores in this tournament reflect that.”
In addition to Dingus, the Hatters five-some for the tournament will include freshmen Andrew Peterson (Andover, Minn.) and Michael Primavera (Naples, Fla.) along with sophomore Matt Taylor (Naples, Fla.) and junior Tyler White (Palm Harbor, Fla.). Freshman David Torres (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) will make his collegiate debut in the tournament, playing as an individual.
Players will continue play from the first round in the morning right into the second round for the afternoon. The third, and final round will be played on Tuesday morning with play starting at 7:15 a.m.