first_imgThe Wisconsin men’s golf team doesn’t get a lot of acknowledgement on campus, let alone at the national level. Second-year head coach Jim Schuman said it best.“Being recognized nationally takes solid play,” Schuman said.The Badgers were far from solid play at the conclusion of the 2003-04 season. They finished last in the Big Ten tournament for the third-straight year, posting a 54-hole total of 897 — 21 shots out of 10th place.The good news for then first-year coach Schuman was that his golfers were all returning. Additionally, this year’s recruiting class looked to be as talented as Wisconsin has seen in recent years.The 2004 fall team did not disappoint. In the first tournament of the year, the Badgers finished tied for first in a field of 14 at the Michigan/Radrick Farms Invitational. Just one week later, UW won its second consecutive tournament by six shots over its nearest competitor.“They were a little bit more focused,” Schuman said. “I think the guys did a great job at identifying what their weaknesses were. We all love to sit there and work on what we’re great at, but you don’t get a whole lot better by doing that.”Earlier this spring, the Badgers continued their strong play with a fourth-place finish at the Lexus/Peter Jacobson Invitational and two dual-meet wins against Luther College and state rival Marquette.While the newfound accomplishments are encouraging, even more exciting is that much of the team’s recent success can be attributed to young golfers Garrett Jones and Jeff Kaiser. A sophomore and freshman, respectively, these two have shown early and often that they are the future of Wisconsin golf.Jones leads the team again this season. Last year, as a true freshman, he paced the Badgers in five of the final six meets and posted the team’s lowest 18-hole stroke average (74.1). This spring, he has continued his consistent play, leading the Badgers in four of their five meets, while lowering his average to 72.1.Schuman cites Jones’ work ethic as the main reason for the sophomore’s success.“Garrett is a hard worker,” Schuman said. “There’s nobody on the team that works harder than him. He’s gaining confidence in every tournament. You can just see him growing, and his play is showing that. He’s a great manager of the golf course and he has great patience out there.”For the second-straight year, UW has had a true freshman stand out. Before coming to Wisconsin, Kaiser was arguably the state’s top golfer as a senior at Onalaska High School. He finished tied for first at the WIAA state tournament with a two-day total of 143 (one under par).“He had a lot of national experience,” Schuman said of Kaiser’s high school resume. “He was playing against the best junior players in the country (in summer tournaments), and that tends to mature you pretty quickly as a golfer.”While Jones still garners top-golfer honors, Kaiser is the team’s emerging star. He currently has the second-best stroke average on the team, less than a shot higher than his sophomore teammate.According to his coach, Kaiser displays the attitude that is needed to be a successful golfer.“He knows how to manage his game, and he has that drive to win,” Schuman said. “He’s not swayed by the circumstances. He gets the good bounces and bad bounces just like anybody else, but he’s a very focused individual. Those are some of the things, at a young age, that you don’t see very often. He’s got a bright future here for sure, and he definitely has a future after his four years at the university.”Solid recruiting is essential in rebuilding and maintaining any college athletic program. While major revenue sports like basketball, football and hockey are at no disadvantage, there isn’t much extra incentive for a national golf prospect to sign with a school likely to have snow on the ground for more than three months of the year. In fact, 19 of Golf Week’s current top-20 Division I golf teams are from the South.Still, Schuman doesn’t see Wisconsin weather as a major obstacle. Instead, he focuses on what Wisconsin does have to offer.“The bottom line is this: whether you’re down south or not, you’re allowed to have the same amount of competition days as we are,” Schuman said. “We have the ability here at the university to sell just an unbelievable academic package. It rounds out with a great social life. Wisconsin is just a great place to be.”The men’s golf program is, without question, a team on the rise thanks in no small part to Coach Schuman. The coach remains confident but realistic.“You can call it a rebuilding of the program for sure, and [Kaiser] is a cornerstone in that rebuilding, he and Garrett Jones,” Schuman said. “We’re just very excited. It takes patience, it takes time. We’ve done some good things, but there’s a ways for us to go. We’ll continue to work hard and give it an effort that we can all be proud of.”last_img

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