Golf heads to Big East Championship in search of first title


DePaul Athletics/Steve Woltmann

David Griggs swings out of a sand bunker.

After five months of traveling all over the country and maintaining focus throughout the season, the DePaul golf team prepares itself for the Big East Championship. The tournament starts April 25-27, and will run on all three days, with each day consisting of one round of 18 holes.

The team opened the season at the Valparaiso University Fall Invitational on Sept. 20, where they finished 8th out of 12. Since then, the Blue Demons usually finished around 11th place.

Their highest placement of the season was in October at the Tom Tontimonia Invitational, where the Blue Demons finished 4th out of 13. At the tournament, junior Noah Kolar had a career-best of 67.

The Blue Demons concluded their intercollegiate schedule with the Missouri University Tiger Invitational on April 11-12. Kolar, a top performer on the team, finished in 36th place and helped DePaul place 16th overall.

“Each week is a different challenge,” head coach Marty Schiene said. “It is a different course, different conditions; you are playing the course. I emphasize to score you need to drive it, wedge it and need to putt it; those are the skills we work on. It is such an intricate game it does not get old or boring.”

The Big East Tournament is being held for the first time in Pine Mountain, Georgia’s Callaway Gardens Golf Course.

The Blues Demons were fortunate to have a professional caddy and former PGA Tour Champion David Toms speak to the team about what to look for and how the course in Georgia can be played successfully. Toms, in his years of playing, has won twice at Callaway Gardens course.

“We did the Zoom call with the professional caddy,” junior Conor Glennon said. “We did sort of a classroom session, where we go over the course and analyze what clubs to use, because everyone is playing individually, so we try and go through how each person would be most successful on that course.”

The game of golf requires a great deal of patience, and when a season stretches from September to April, like the Blue Demons schedule does, finding time to unwind and clear the head is essential.

The team has never had the luxury of calling a golf course their home. Each intercollegiate scheduled invite is a neutral site, which makes traveling to every tournament a chance for the team to bond.

“[Nik Gatmaytan] is a very good cook, and he makes insanely good food,” sophomore David Griggs said. “So, we do team dinners a lot, or sometimes we will do a movie that all of us can enjoy. I mean, we all love to play golf, so we also do that in our free time we will practice together and play games, that is where we have the most fun.”

The Big East Tournament requires that six players from the team qualify to participate and represent each school at Georgia. The Blue Demons constructed a four-round qualifier to determine which individual would qualify for the Big East Tournament.

Three individuals remained exempt and had already qualified due to their consistent performances throughout the season. Players like junior Artemiy Valvenko and freshman Alex Vekich have given stability for the Blue Demons all season and will highlight the group of six in hopes of bringing home some hardware.

“We played through all those nasty days,” Schiene said. “Monday it snowed, we played Chicago Highlands, Sunday Ivanhoe [was] very cold, Saturday we played Bryn Mawr and Alex Vekrich shot 64 with a hole-in-one, so that’s kind of exciting as a coach to see someone go that low.”

This year’s Blue Demon squad has leadership from all nine of its players. Throughout the season, they have had freshman to fifth-year seniors play large roles in and contribute to winning performances all season.

The collegiate scoring format in golf takes the top four individual scores out of five who have played the course in that round of 18 holes and adds them together at the end.

This allows for placement to be ordered by team total performances and individual performances—that way, the team will get rewarded for both performances.

“We have sort of been tailoring our practices for the Big East, trying to prepare for the course and practicing sure shot we feel will be required or potential used on the course,” Glennon said. “Being confident in what you practice, you’re practicing for a reason and the preparation is sort of in the practice.”