In college golf, you play during the fall and spring. How do they differ from each other?
"They actually count exactly the same. Usually, programs play more tournaments in the spring than they do in the fall. You can't compete until September 1st and most programs begin to wrap the fall up in early November. Basically, you are talking about just two months of golf. In the spring, most teams start in February and then the spring goes all the way to the national championship, which ends around the first of June.
"While the spring season is much longer, you can still choose whenever you want to play. You have 144 days to practice and play throughout the year. You can break those days up anyway you want to during the fall and spring.
"For us, due to having an opportunity to play in Hawaii during the first week of November, we decided to play in one extra tournament in the fall. Hawaii doesn't count in your days of competition. Plus we felt, due to having a good group of seniors, going to Hawaii would be a great reward for their hard work and dedication. And we went there and ended the fall season on a great note, shooting 38 under, a Mississippi State record for a 54-hole event. We finished third, losing by just 4 strokes. Among the teams we beat were Arizona State and Baylor, both top-25 teams. Doing that gave our guys a lot of confidence."
You have a veteran group coming back, four of whom are seniors this year. And they really had a great season last year. How have those four progressed going into the spring?
"All four of the seniors played in post-season for us last year. Those four seniors - Axel Boasson, Barrett Edens, Chad Ramey and Joe Sakulpolphaisan - played very well for us during our last four events. We knew, with those guys coming back, lack of experience was not going to be a factor. But in golf you start from scratch at the start of each tournament. What you did last week doesn't matter the next week. Plus, in golf, if your form gets even the smallest amount off, You can go from shooting 69 to 75 very, very quickly. And in the fall we had a couple of guys who didn't play quite up to their ability.
"Axel Boasson was a second-team All-SEC player for us last year and he was one of our most consistent players. He was actually our number-two man last year. He came back and was a little off with his form. And quite frankly, without him playing well, we aren't as good as we can be. Once Axel got his form back late in the season that was really big for us. And it was big for him as well because he can go through the winter knowing that he hasn't lost his form. And we feel like he can be a great player for us going into the spring. He has the chance to win every time because he hits the ball so far and his work ethic and desire are so good."
With the four seniors you have four of your five spots set. Who is competing for the fifth spot?
"Sophomore Ben Wood had the fall that we were looking for to give us the year that Robi Calvesbert gave us last year. Ben had so many good rounds. He was very, very consistent. He contended to win in the two-round Bridgestone Tournament. With two holes to play, he was right there with a chance to win.
"If you look at our entire fall we had nine guys play. Besides those four seniors, we had five other guys play in a tournament. We had two true freshmen play - Jackson Dick and Ben Follett-Smith - and a junior college guy play, T.J. Morgan, a walk-on from Meridian Community College. Dalton Conn, a redshirt freshman, also played as did Ben Wood. I don't think we had the same lineup during any of the six events we played in during the fall."
Despite playing so many players, are you still set on which five will play the majority of the time during the spring?
"You like to think that because of the scores of the four seniors and Ben Wood during the previous years but you never know because someone could always falter a little bit."
Although some of the other four guys may not play much in the spring, at least they now have some experience going into next season.
"Yeah, looking toward next year we are losing four seniors this year, so it is good that some of these guys who are currently freshmen, sophomores and even juniors are getting a taste of it. They'll have to step up and play a bigger role next year."
With a veteran group coming back, do you feel the team, overall, should be better this season compared to last season?
"I do, no doubt about it. Joe is a better player than he was last year. Chad has improved. Barrett kind of came into his own last year. That gave him a lot of confidence going into this year. You can see that. And our goal this year is to get better each and every week with the ultimate goal of having a chance to compete for a national championship. In order for us to do that we have to play well at the right time.
"Going into the spring, we know we can compete with just about anybody in the country. And we want to be peaking at the right time. Last year we were playing well in March and April, then we had to wait almost a full month before we competed again. And we appeared to have lost it a little bit at the regional, which kept us from advancing. This year we know the most important tournament for us is at the regionals. And we want to be peaking at mid-May because our goal is to compete for a national championship."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.