Last fall was a bit of a learning curve for Army head coach Brian Watts.
Despite leading the Black Knights to the 2011 Patriot League men’s golf championship in his first season with the school, the former Oregon State coach saw his squad struggle during the first half of Year 2.
After a strong start, which included a runner-up finish at the Bucknell Fall Invitational, Army closed the fall with two last-place tournament finishes, a pair of tri-match losses and a dual-match loss to Navy.
“We got clocked,” said Watts, who led Oregon State to a 16th-place finish at the NCAA Championship in his last year with the school. “We flat out didn’t perform. We shot some terrible numbers and that’s part of the growth that we have to go through for our program to get better.”
Watts said bad scheduling was partly to blame for his team’s poor performance down the stretch.
Army closed the fall with events in three consecutive weeks. The Eagles had just two practices during the final three weeks of the fall where every player was present. And sophomore Brandon Baerwaldt, who led the team with a 74.1 stroke average through the first two events, missed the final four.
“I take a lot of the blame for that,” Watts said. “I believed I overscheduled. They weren’t used to playing three weeks in a row. At Army, if you miss class, it takes a toll on you. I don’t want to put our guys in that situation where their having to chose between going to class and going to practice.
“We won’t run into that situation again.”
Heading into the spring, the Black Knights have four tournaments leading up to the conference championship in late April, including a trip to Tucson, Ariz., in March for the National Invitational Tournament.
The spring slate also features a stop in Raleigh, N.C., in April for the N.C. State Wolfpack Open – a tournament that includes Navy, which beat Army twice during the fall.
“The one thing here that I’ve learned is that you don’t really have to tell them when they lose to Navy,” Watts said. “Our guys know they’re good.”
Watts said that despite his team’s title as the defending conference champion, the Black Knights won’t be the favorite when they arrive at Bucknell GC on April 28.
“I think it’s a toss-up,” Watts said. “If we do everything we’re supposed to do, the outcome will take care of itself. But if we don’t take care of the little things and do our work every day, then we can’t step on the tee box and feel like we deserve to an opportunity to win a tournament.”
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Top of the class: Navy
Best player this fall: Carter Rufe, Lafayette
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Wondering how your favorite conference is shaping up headed into the spring season? Who is our favorite to pick up the automatic qualifier? Check out our conference-by-conference break down with our complete coverage page here.
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