June 21, 1999 - by
Men’s Golf Preview

February 9, 1999


The 1998-99 Florida State men’s golf team is one of youngest teams in Coach Ernie Lanford’s eight years. Featuring only three seniors and a bevy of underclassmen, Lanford will rely on a very inexperienced line-up in the fall. This year’s team will continue to improve with tournament experience and will once again remain one of the premier golf programs in the country.

Although the Seminoles are young and experienced, the goal remains the same. The Tribe will try to qualify for the NCAA Regionals for the second straight year and four out of the last five years. A trip to the NCAA Championships and an ACC title remain the most important goals for this Seminole squad.

“We want to finish well in the ACC Tournament,” said head coach Ernie Lanford. “There have been so many red numbers in the ACC’s the last three years that it is about as competitive as the NCAA Championships. We also look to play well in the spring to qualify for the NCAA East Regional.”

The Seminoles have to replace All-ACC performer George McNeill, Jason Pool, Barry Dyche and Mark Monroe from a team that qualified for the NCAA East Regional last year. Monroe was notified in August that his eligibility had been used up and that he could no longer participate in collegiate golf. Junior Nathan Bertsch and the above-mentioned individuals captured Florida State’s first tournament victory since the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship in 1997 at the U.S. Collegiate Golf Championships in St. Augustine, FL. McNeill also notched his first and only individual championship of his career at the Tennessee Tournament of Champions.

“We have a very young team this year,” stated Lanford. “These young student-athletes have to adjust to college life and living away from home for the first time. They have all the experience on the golf course, but it usually the things off the golf course that get to them.”

The top returning player for the Seminoles is Bertsch. Bertsch, a junior from Gulf Breeze, FL, is the only player returning with significant tournament experience. Bertsch has played in 17 events in his two years at FSU, recording three top ten finishes and composite stroke average of 78.7. Bertsch best finish came in the Seminole Classic at the Golden Eagle Country Club. He finished tied for sixth after leading the tournament after two rounds.

Ryan Felty enters his junior year after playing in three tournaments as a freshman and two tournaments last year. Felty has compiled a stroke average of 76.3 in five tournaments in his career. Felty led all Seminoles at the Bridges All-American last year and recorded his highest career finish, ending tied for seventh with a two-round total of 144.

Senior Craig Cochran will play important part in the success of this year’s team. Having waited his turn behind McNeill and Fulford, Cochran is one of three seniors on this year’s roster. Cochran played in three tournaments as a sophomore and one as a junior. His best finish is tied for 41st in the Killearn/Seminole Classic in his sophomore season and the Seminole Classic as a junior. Cochran looks to make it through his senior season with a back injury that causes severe pain.

“Craig has an awful lot of tournament experience,” commented Lanford. “He is one of the few guys on the team with collegiate experience and has tried to be a leader.

“He has a bad back that causes alot of pain when he plays alot of golf. He was going to have surgery a couple of years ago, but decided against it. He will just have to fight through the pain.”

One of the most impressive young players for the Seminoles is sophomore Kris Hannah. A Tallahassee, FL native, Hannah has only played in one tournament as a top five player, but will be an important member of this year’s team. Hannah finished tied for 44th at the Keswick Club Cavalier Classic and also participated in two tournaments as an individual. Hannah placed second in a FAMU tournament and led all individuals with a tied for 19th place finish at the Seminole Classic.

“Kris is the hardest worker that we have here,” Lanford stated. “He is going to keep himself in there with all the extra work he does on his game. He spends time in the rock pile.”

Sophomore Mark Donaldson enters his first full season with the Seminoles. Donaldson entered the FSU golf program last January, playing in two tournaments as a freshman. Donaldson came to America with a long list of credentials. Donaldson was the runner-up for the Scottish Amateur Championship this past summer and was the Scottish Junior Champion prior to him coming to FSU.

“Mark has all the experience in the world,” said Lanford. “It took some time for him to adjust to the new lifestyle here in America. He is looking to improve each and every week and we are expecting some good things from him this spring.”

A bevy of underclassmen with no tournament experience adorn this Seminole roster. Matt Ackley has been impressive in early season practice and will look to crack the line-up in the fall season. Kevin Zuelch, Jim Fitzpatrick, Brian Hawver and Casey Shea will also look to crack the line-up in the fall season.

“Matt (Ackley) has had some bright spots since he has come to FSU,” said Lanford. “(Casey) Shea is probably the most improved player since the beginning of the fall season and (Brian) Hawver is starting to put up some low scores.”

The schedule will look much the same as it has the last three years. The Seminoles will once again host the Seminole Classic at the Golden Eagle Country. The Seminoles will also have the privilege to travel to Puerto Rico for a tournament in February, featuring all nine ACC schools. The Tribe also returns to the U.S. Collegiate Championships to defend their title. The Seminoles defeated the NCAA Champion UNLV Rebels and several top ranked teams in front of a national televised audience. The ACC Championships will be one of the premier conference tournaments in the country and the Seminoles hope to improve on a seventh-place finish from a year ago.

“The schedule is much the same as it was last year,” Lanford commented. “We are playing in one new tournament in Puerto Rico and that will be a challenge with a very difficult field. We hope we can have the same success at the U.S. Collegiate Championships.”

The talent is there to have a successful Florida State golf team. If these young student-athletes can mature and mold into a team, the Seminoles will look for another trip to postseason play.

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