UTC Mocs using four freshmen in spotlight golf tournament

UTC Mocs using four freshmen in spotlight golf tournament

September 4th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Coach Mark Guhne, left, watches as Ewan Scott putts Tuesday at the UTC practice facility.

Coach Mark Guhne, left, watches as Ewan Scott...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfers Stephan Jaeger and Steven Fox found space alongside current members of the team Tuesday afternoon at the Player Development Complex.

The two former All-Americans' college playing days are over.

The next tournament for both will be the PGA Tour's Web.com qualifying series in a few weeks.

The current Mocs will begin the 2013-14 season this weekend in the Carpet Capital Collegiate tournament at The Farm Golf Club at Rocky Face, Ga. The five-man lineup will consist of senior Davis Bunn and four freshmen.

"The last two years we've had two outstanding players in Jaeger and Fox," coach Mark Guhne said. "Now it's time for somebody else to step up, whether it's one of the seniors or a freshman. It's time to move past the past and do something new."

Freshman Stuart Thomas of Farragut High School earned team medalist honors in a six-round qualifying tournament -- three rounds at The Farm, two at Council Fire and one at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club -- to determine the five spots in the lineup starting Friday in the tournament that's known as the Masters of College Golf.

"I was very nervous the first day of qualifying," Thomas said. "It's crazy and it's exciting. I don't think anybody knew that four freshmen would be starting. But to know that we're starting four freshmen is incredible, knowing how big of a tournament this is.

"Our team qualifying is a battlefield."

Thomas and Bunn will be joined by true freshmen Ewan Scott of Scotland and Brooks Thomas from Ringgold High School and redshirt freshman Wes Gosselin, who attended Hardin Valley in Knoxville.

"I'll have to give them a little advice, but they know how to play in major tournaments," said Bunn, who played his first college round as a freshman in the Carpet Capital Collegiate. "They know how to play golf, but I need to make sure they're ready to play."

Seniors Chris Robb and Benni Weilguni and junior Liam Johnston have played in NCAA tournament events but did not make the starting lineup for the first of five UTC fall-season events.

"Across the board we've got experience and we have good freshmen coming in, which is good for our team because there's more competition," Bunn said. "If you look at the past, we've always had four or five starters all the time. But with four freshmen in the first tournament, you don't know what's going to happen for the rest of the season."

It is a new season for UTC. It's a fresh season. It's a normal season.

Last year was an anomaly because Fox was the U.S. Amateur champion. He had the Havemeyer Trophy in his bedroom, and he drew national -- even international -- recognition throughout the year. Fox drew unprecedented attention to UTC golf, including an invitation to meet Arnold Palmer, playing in three majors and signing autographs at the Masters.

Teammates enjoyed having the amateur celebrity on their team. They called him "Champ" on the same range where they all practiced Tuesday.

Fox said he always will be part of the UTC program. He's just not eligible to play for the team anymore.

"Having Fox was great, absolutely great, but without that kind of label to our team of having the U.S. Am champion, we can concentrate on putting up five good scores instead of having folks ask, 'Where's Fox, and what's he doing?'" Bunn said. "We're a team instead of Fox and the Mocs."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at Twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.