Coming off its best Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference finish in six years, and the program's second-best average team score since at least 1996-97, Ashland University's men's golf team is ready to start 2019-20 on Monday and Tuesday (Sept. 9-10) with 54 holes at the Don Underwood Invitational in Allendale, Mich.
"We're early in the season, obviously, and we're excited," said Ashland head coach Dennis North.
The Eagles were the 2019 GLIAC runner-up, and the team's average season score of 299.71 has only been bested in the last 23 seasons by the 2007-08 squad which ended at 299.42.
Ashland's top three returnees from last season are senior Patrick Steffen, junior Ben Jones and redshirt sophomore Luke Tanner. Jones' scoring average of 73.74 last season is the third-best in program history (since 1996-97), while Steffen's 74.95 ranks 11th.
Tanner came on at the end of last season, finished the campaign with an average round of 78.78, and played his last three rounds at the GLIAC Championships at 77, 77 and 76.
"We know what we've got with Luke, Patrick and Ben," North said. "It's great to have those guys back. We had our big three last year, and we're going to lean on this big three this year."
Joining Steffen, Jones and Tanner in the Eagles' lineup at Grand Valley State are a pair of freshmen – Caden Gallagher and Andrew Kolar. Kolar hails from Grand Rapids, Mich., and Gallagher earned the final travel spot in qualifying by one shot.
North wants his Eagles to get off to a faster start in 2019-20, after coming on late in the spring a season ago. A full strong fall and spring could mean a team spot in the NCAA Division II postseason for the first time since 2013-14.
"We had so much hope going into last year, and knew how important the fall was," said North. "We got off to a horrible start in the spring, and then finished the spring really strong.
"That's definitely my goal, going into the season, is to reach the NCAAs."