By: CASEY MCDONALD
FORE! Many call that out as a warning to people in the path of a golf ball. You might hear that once or twice when you’re watching the IU South Bend Men’s Golf team this season.
Entering its second season, the team has a long road ahead of it, but from the players’ confidence in themselves and the team, it looks like they are ready for the challenge.
Coach Justin Akers is in his second year at IUSB. Before that, he had a lot of experiences that qualified him to take this job.
It started back in 2008 at Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU), where he played four years. Graduating in 2012, he became assistant coach for OWU for two years before getting the head coaching position at IUSB.
Now having a year under his belt, Akers is “very excited” with the group of young men he has playing for him.
“I am beginning to get the student athletes that fit my vision of a successful golf team both in the classroom and on the course,” Akers said. He expects the team to get better, “again both on the course and in the classroom.”
His style of coaching is both headstrong and laid back, depending on the time and place. Being close in age those he coaches helps him relate to what’s going on in their lives, he said.
“I am a firm believer in hard work and giving it your all. I am definitely not a hope for the best kind of coach,” he said.
If you work hard, put the time in, and give the effort necessary to whatever you are doing whether that be on the course or in the classroom, it will pay off in the end is something he stresses to his team.
Being a competitive coach has its ups and downs, but he would rather the Titan golfers strengthen their skills both on and off the course than focus on winning. If a win at the course just happens to come along, then that’s the added bonus. “I would be more happy the guys worked hard, put their time in, came together and then won together as a team,” he said.
It’s hard to balance a school schedule and an athletic schedule, but whether good or not there is always something to take out from the experience of it all. Coach Akers said that if there is anything that his players take away from this, he hopes it is that they are apart of something bigger than just themselves.
“They are building friendships that will last the rest of their lives, helping to build and lay the foundation of the IU South bend golf program,” he said.
The team is filled with one freshman, four sophomores, three juniors and two seniors this year. Sophomore Broc Maurer has been playing golf for six years, and started his freshman year at Jimtown High School.
“I think we have a better team this year, we brought in a few guys that can post some good scores. They have already made an impact on us through the first couple tournaments,” Maurer said.
Junior John Stack transferred this semester from Marian University. Stack started playing before his seventh grade yea. He graduated from Fairfield High School, where he won sectionals and conference as an individual his senior year. Along with Stack, there are two other transfers this year.
“I believe all three of us bring a lot of good stuff to the team,” Stack said. “I believe we have a quality team that has the potential to do well in conference if we all play well.”
Sophomore Brady York has been playing golf for about eight years in different competitive leagues throughout his career, including junior leagues when he was younger, and continuing all the way up through his four years at Penn High School.
York transferred from University of St. Francis. He didn’t know much about the team coming into it this year.
“So far, I really like the team, and I think we have a chance to do something great here,” York said.
Sophomore Braden Sherwood has been golfing since, he thinks, about five years of age. Sherwood used to play in junior tournaments starting at age eight. He attended Elkhart Memorial High School and played varsity all four years. He made the all-conference team three times, where he played his freshman year at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne Ind.
“The team has the potential to make tremendous strides this year,” Sherwood said.
Junior Brayden Glaser is a 2014 graduate of Northwood High School and a second year member of the team. He has been playing golf since the age of four, and competing in tournaments since age 11. He thinks the team this year is progressing nicely with the addition of a few new golfers.
Golf courses can be tricky, especially if you do not quite understand them. Courses are more than just long short cut lanes of grass, there is actually: the teeing ground, the fairway, the rough, water hazards, the bunkers, the “out of bounds” boundaries, and the obvious hole. All these along with the location that they are playing in and the length of the fairway makes for some pretty tricky tournaments.
Stack summed up what it’s like in the mind of the golfer. “With golf it’s a little different,” he said. “You want to beat your opponents but you are always playing against the golf course.”
Some courses are trickier than others. Among those interviewed, it was basically a unanimous decision that the TPC Deere Run course is the hardest this season.
The course is an 18-hole course in Silvis, Ill., where the Titans will play their conference tournament in October. If the name of the course sounds familiar, it’s because it is a PGA Tour course home to the John Deere Classic in the regular season schedule.
“I will say the NAIA Fall Preview will be an exciting tournament to be a part of. There will be 20 teams from all over the country participating in the event,” Coach Akers said.
Glaser also said that TPC Deere Run “requires strategy and shot placement”.
“A lot of good teams show up, and it’s a tough course. So it should be a good show of where we are compared to good competition,” Stack said about Deere Run.
Student athletes must not only balance school and sports, but the relationships within the team to make it stronger. Every player has a different goal after their college experiences are up, but they may all have the same general feeling after leaving a team.
Maurer said that he is just enjoying the experience playing with guys he knew in high school and meeting some new guys also. “It is a fun experience and we always have a good time out on the course,” he said.