Louisville coach Mark Crabtree has questioned himself and his tactics numerous times during his six years at the helm of the Cardinals men’s program. He never questioned his players or his university’s dedication to golf, just himself.
Those questions, it seems, finally have been answered.
After years of futility, Louisville has found a successful mix in its lineup, blending senior leadership with raw freshmen talent. The results: Two tournament victories, top-5 finishes in all seven of its events and a top-45 ranking in the Golfweek/ Sagarin College Rankings.
“It’s a lot of chemistry that has allowed us to make some progress,” Crabtree said Feb. 15 at the UCF/Rio Pinar Intercollegiate in Orlando, Fla., where the Cardinals finished third. “We simply have kids who are talented and enthusiastic.”
The leadership is provided by seniors Charlie Woo and Brett Jones, who became the first Louisville player to qualify for the NCAA Championship when he did so as a sophomore. Still, the two have been through three rocky years and are relieved to have found some success.
The freshmen – identical twins Daryl and Derek Fathauer and Adam Rainaud – combine to give Louisville a carefree, go-for-broke attitude. The trio respects the seniors, but doesn’t mind showing them a thing or two on the golf course.
Ironically, what Crabtree believes makes the Cardinals tick is the lack of a superstar, something he always has dealt with, even during the six years he spent as Colorado State head coach before going to Louisville.
Daryl Fathauer is the Cardinals’ top-ranked player at No. 154, and Rainaud is the lowest-ranked at No. 392. In between are Woo (162), Derek Fathauer (165) and Jones (269). Each has played in the No. 1 position at an event this year and each has played No. 4.
“If you have a stud, a star, maybe you do things differently,” Crabtree said. “I’ve never had that. What I have had are some awfully good players who have bought into the team concept.”
Said Woo: “If you look at top 30 teams, they may have one or two superstars. Our team is different. I don’t think I’m any better than anyone else. I think everyone else feels the same way.”
The Cardinals set no team goals at the beginning of the year. Crabtree simply told his players to go out, do their best and see what happens. Now, more than midway through the season, Louisville is starting to get visions of reaching the NCAA Regionals for the first time in school history. A spot in the NCAA Championship was once unthinkable but now attainable.
“I would prefer to be a non-result oriented team and worry more about preparation,” Crabtree said. “When you’re building a program, you have to do that. If you try to get ahead of yourself, I think
you set yourself up for a big smash in the mouth.
I would prefer not to do that.”