Releases

For Immediate Release: September 10, 2004
Contact: John Hartrick (hartrick@binghamton.edu)
Phone: 607-777-6800

Binghamton golf aims for third straight NCAA regional berth as fall season begins

It’s been six years since Binghamton golf had to replace both its No. 1 and No. 2 man in the same off-season, but that is the daunting task facing second-year head coach Nick Lasky as his 2004-05 team prepares tees it up in the fall. Graduation hit this program hard last spring, with three senior starters — No. 1 man Keith Hendrickson and No. 2 Joe Kunz plus captain Eric Vinal all completing their careers.

For the Bearcats to continue their standing among the top teams in the Northeast and to extend the program’s string of NCAA tournament appearances (10 in the last 13 years including back-to-back Division I berths), Lasky will have to receive production from a talented but largely unproven group.

“Not having Keith and Joe is a big loss in terms of scores and consistency throughout our fall and spring seasons,” Lasky said. “And any time you lose a four-year player like Eric, it affects the continuity of the team. Although they aren’t seniors, what I consider this year’s ‘Big Three’ (Brad Moulton, Kevin Crawford and Jeff Wolniewicz) know what they have to do and I have every confidence they will rise to the occasion and lead the team.”

Wolniewicz emerging as top player
Sophomore Jeff Wolniewicz followed up his successful freshman season with an outstanding summer on the amateur golf circuit, and he appears poised to step into the shoes of his good friend and mentor, Hendrickson.
“Jeff’s exceptional skills and calm demeanor on the golf course served him well last year and over the summer he has taken his game to an even higher level,” Lasky said. “Because of his quite confidence and proven ability, his teammates look to him to lead them from the No. 1 spot. And that is remarkable for just a sophomore.”
Wolniewicz earned second team PING all-region honors in 2003-04, and maintained the 14th-best scoring average in the Northeast (76.0). He opened the NCAA East Regional with rounds of 74-73 at Yale, and produced four top-10 finishes during the year.
I
n the summer, Wolniewicz served further notice with a 1-under performance at the 72-hole Monroe Invitational Championship, where he defeated eight collegiate All-Americans to place 10th in the field (70-66-70-73). Three weeks later he fired two rounds in the 60s to place among the top third at the prestigious Rice Planters Championship in South Carolina.

Lefty Crawford back in starting lineup
Junior co-captain Kevin Crawford returns to his spot in the starting lineup after a solid sophomore campaign. He held down a 77.3 scoring average in 13 tournaments, and helped BU gain its second consecutive NCAA regional berth with strong play in the spring stretch run. In back-to-back tournaments, Crawford was the team’s low man, placing seventh at the New England Championship (73-73) and 10th at the Rhode Island Invitational (73-77). Lasky feels this could be a breakout year for the steady left-hander

“Kevin spent countless hours over the summer refining his swing and working on his game,” Lasky said. “He has an emerging confidence and I expect him to be among the elite golfers in the Northeast.”

Moulton takes on captain reigns
Joining Crawford as co-captain is junior Brad Moulton, whose collegiate career has been stamped with as many academic accomplishments as golfing achievements. After a brilliant freshman campaign, Moulton’s game slipped a notch in 2003-04, and he played just five events.

A Dean’s List finance major who was honored as both a SUNY Chancellor and America East Scholar-Athlete, Moulton has maintained his leadership and dedication — attributes not lost on Lasky.

“They don’t come any better than Brad Moulton,” Lasky said. “He represents the University in such a positive way, and always puts the team first. Because of a summer of dedication and hard work, Brad is ready to step into the starting five and resume if not improve upon his success as a freshman.”

Vinal, Ungvarsky earn starting roles
Freshman Zach Vinal and sophomore Aaron Ungvarsky have also nailed down spots in the starting five.
Vinal, the younger brother of 2004-05 captain and four-year letterwinner Eric Vinal, enters college with a substantial resume of scholastic and amateur golf accomplishments, and could quickly emerge as one of the top players in the lineup.

He is one of just four golfers in New York state history to advance to the state high school championship five consecutive years. He was state runner-up to teammate Kevin Crawford in 2002, and placed 10th in 2003. In the Syracuse area, Vinal’s name has been near the top of amateur leaderboards for years. A three-time Central New York Junior Player of the Year recipient, Vinal was selected as the 2002 Men’s Player of the Year in the Syracuse District Golf Association.

“Zach is a tremendous talent with unlimited potential,” Lasky said. “He has high goals and expectations coming into his freshman season, and we all look for Zach to contribute right away.”

Ungvarsky, a former Massachusetts high school state runner-up, eased into his collegiate career last year, playing just three events (76.6 average). His most impressive result was a third place showing among a field of 125 at the Lafayette Invitational (73-73). Ungvarsky’s performance in early season practice rounds caught Lasky’s attention.
“Right now Aaron is playing as well as anyone on the team,” Lasky said. “And if he brings that same game to the tournaments, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with at any event we play this year.”

Gabel begins promising career
Freshman Ryan Gabel, along with junior Casey Wheet and sophomore Casey Dean are also able to step into the lineup.

Gabel brings outstanding credentials to campus, having earned six all-state honors while at Spackenkill High. Over the summer he advanced to the round of 16 at the New York State Amateur Championship and was runnerup at the Metropolitan Golf Association Carter Cup Championship.

Wheet has earned a spot on the team for the second time in three years, and can put up numbers, as his 72-75 in early-season practice rounds attests.

Dean, who like Wheet hails from Elmira, is a steady golfer and former two-time scholastic player of the year.

Traditional events highlight schedule
The 2004-05 schedule kicks off with six fall events, capped with BU’s NBT Bank Collegiate Classic — a 36-hole tournament played at The Links at Hiawatha Landing. Prior to that, the Bearcats will defend their title at the Colgate Invitational, and then see most of their familiar region rivals at four straight key tournaments in mid-September through early-October.

In early spring, BU will embark on two special trips to New Orleans in late February (for the River City Classic) and Orlando in March. In early April, the team will return to the Towson Drew Upton Classic before grinding it out at the New England Championship and Rhode Island Invitational — two events that carry great significance in the NCAA selection process.

Pride will be on the line when the Bearcats attempt to reclaim the America East Championship when that 36-hole event begins outside Albany on May 2-3. Binghamton, the 2003 conference champion, struggled out of the gate last spring and was defeated by Hartford by eight strokes.

The NCAA East Regional will be held on May 19-21 on St. Simons Island, Ga.

“We’ve committed to a heavy District I schedule this fall as we’ve done in recent years, which is necessary to establish ourselves as one of the top teams in the Northest,” Lasky said. “With the addition of two southern trips in the spring, our goal is to gain more experience and exposure at a national level.”

Challenges face young lineup
To duplicate BU’s scoring average (301.1) from 2003-04, Lasky will need consistency throughout the lineup. The school-record 74.1 average that Hendrickson recorded will be hard to replace. Add to that the fact that Hendrickson (97% of rounds counted) and Kunz (89%) were virtual locks to come in with usable scores, and one can see how the 2003-04 team won five tournaments and had 10 top-5 finishes in 14 events.

With Wolniewicz (83%) and Crawford (78%), BU has some of that consistency back, but the Nos. 3-5 are relatively untested in the lengthy collegiate season, and the rate of their development will play a big role in the team’s fortunes in 2004-05.

There will be little time for that development to take shape, however, as Binghamton’s traditional fall schedule features tough events at Central Connecticut, Dartmouth, Army and Yale in successive weeks.

“As in years past, it’s important to get off to a good start in the fall, especially against our district rivals,” Lasky said. “ If we play the way we’re capable of, it will ‘set the table’ and let our competitors know that Binghamton is once again a force in the Northeast.”

One benefit the 2004-05 squad has perhaps more so than its immediate predecessor is a balance throughout the lineup.

“This year’s team is pretty evenly-matched from numbers one to five, which is what every coach would like to have,” Lasky said. “When you have five guys who can all score, it takes the pressure off any one individual, and reinforces the team aspect of collegiate golf.”

Historically, Binghamton has parlayed that team concept into achievement at all three divisional levels, capped by its recent Division I success. Lasky believes this squad has the potential to match if not exceed those lofty standards.

“Our team goals are to move up one spot to the number one ranking in the Northeast and also to return to the NCAA regional for a third straight year,” he said. “While we recognize that this is quite a challenge because of the team’s youth, our dedication and team chemistry should go a long way in reaching these goals.”

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