Stephan Jaeger would be shaking hands with referees and calling heads or tails prior to kickoff if he played football.
But the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior golfer has different duties as captain of the men’s golf team.
He’s a motivater, a mentor, a psychologist, a swing coach, a practice organizer and the golfer coach Mark Guhne most relies on in tournaments.
Jaeger, a native of Germany who prepped at Baylor School, has those duties by default and results.
He is the most experienced player on a five-man team consisting of himself, sophomore Steven Fox and three freshmen — one of the youngest NCAA teams in America yet in the top 40 of the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings at No. 36.
“My freshman year, I lived with [seniors] Ben Rickett and Jonathan [Hodge], so I learned how it works as a captain, and last year I helped guys with some stuff,” said Jaeger, who individually is ranked No. 54 in the nation. “It’s really not that hard. I’m more of a guy that leads by example, so I don’t have talks with them.
“I just practice as efficient as I can, and I think that’s helped the freshmen because they see what I do and kind of do it too.”
Jaeger and his Mocs are seeking to recapture the Southern Conference championship that Furman won last year but UTC owned the previous three seasons.
The competition begins Sunday at the Country Club of South Carolina in Florence, with one round a day through Tuesday. The winner earns an automatic berth into one of six NCAA regional tournaments.
The Mocs are essentially assured an at-large berth based on their ranking and should be in a regional regardless of their finish this week.
Based on rankings — not that championship tournaments are won on rankings — UTC is the clear favorite at Florence. UNC Greensboro is the only other team in the top 100, and the Spartans are ranked 86th by Golfweek/Sagarin.
“There are good teams out there this year,” Guhne said. “Greensboro is having a pretty good year. College of Charleston has been playing well. And you know Furman and Georgia Southern are always going to be ready to play, so that puts four in the tournament right there.
“It’s a course that a lot of other players have seen before. I’d like to get off to an early start and put some distance between us and the other teams.”
With no seniors on the roster and mostly freshmen in the lineup, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Guhne, who lost three seniors last spring — two of whom turned pro with the other becoming a coach.
“It’s a heck of a rebuilding year,” Fox said. “I wouldn’t even call it that anymore. We can compete with anybody in the country. We’ve beat Stanford, Tennessee and Georgia, and it’s a good feeling to exceed expectations.”
The captain credits the kids.
“It’s worked out pretty nicely so far, but I’ll be honest that I didn’t think the freshmen would step up like they did. But it’s been really nice,” Jaeger said. “They’ve done a lot to help us.
“Let’s hope the postseason goes a lot like the regular season.”
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
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