Big Ten Men's Golf Championships Preview

April 27, 2006

The 2006 Big Ten Men's Golf Championships will be hosted this year by Northwestern University on the Conway Farms Golf Course in Lake Forest, Ill. April 28-30. All 11 conference squads will be competing for the team title during the 87th annual event. Here is a brief preview of this weekend's competitors.

The Fighting Illini enter this year's championships as the No. 5 seed and carry strong momentum after tying for third with Xavier at the Bruce Fossum/Taylor Made Invite that saw eight Big Ten teams in action last weekend in East Lansing, Mich.  Sophomore Frank Alafoginis and junior Kyle Hosick led the way for the Orange and Blue to a three-round, 875-stroke performance as both Illini finished in the top 10. Alafoqinis shot a career-best, 1-over-par 216 to tie for seventh out of 66 players. Prior to the Bruce Fossum/Taylor Made Invite, Illinois posted a sixth-place finish at the 72-hole Robert Kepler Intercollegiate, host by Ohio State on April 15-16. Sophomore Mark Ogren (73-77-77) and senior Blair Harkins (72-77-78) were Illinois' leading finishers as both tied for 20th with a score of 277. It marked the second-consecutive tournament that the duo tied with the highest place for the Illini as they both recorded even-par marks of 213 at the Arizona State Thunderbird Invite on April 8-9. Illinois will be vying for its eighth Big Ten Championships crown as the Orange and Blue are currently tied with Northwestern with seven team titles apiece.

The Hoosiers' charge will primarily be led by the IU underclassmen at the championships this year. Freshmen Drew Allenspach and Jorge Campillo have consistently recorded top-20 finishes this season and have helped Indiana bring home two tournament titles. Campillo enters this weekend with three top-three performances this year, most recently on April 16 at the Keepler Intercollegiate where he notched a 2-over-par 217 and tied for third. After winning the individual title at the Boilermaker Invite on Apri 8-9 with a 3-under 212, Campillo was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week for the third time this campaign and now ranks as only the second Hoosier to collect conference weekly honors three times in one season. He currently boasts a team-best 72.41 scoring average in 11 events and is ranked 75th in the Golfweek Individual Rankings. Allenspach has tallied two top-five finishes after tying for fourth at the Fossum/Taylor Made Invite with a career-low, even-par 215 (72-70-73). He is second on the team with a 73.56 average and has even-par marks or lower in 12 rounds thus far. The Sugar Land, Texas native, was named IU Athlete of the Week on April 24 after leading the Hoosiers to their second title of the season in East Lansing, Mich. on April 22-23. Indiana was the 2006 Big Ten Golf Championships runner-up, trailing conference champion Michigan State by only  five strokes, finishing with a team total of 852 (283-275-294). The Hoosiers have won a total of eight championships, most recently in 1998.

Junior Jon Feldick and senior Andy Tiedt have successfully paced the Hawkeyes this season and will look to build upon Iowa's 2005 Big Ten Men's Golf Championships ninth-place this weekend. Both Feldick and Tiedt have recoded top-three finishes amongst the Iowa squad in four tournaments each. Feldick most recently led Iowa with his 225 (77-74-74) stroke performance at the Kepler Intercollegiate on April 16. Last weekend the duo finished first and second for the Hawkeyes, respectively. Tiedt tied for 22nd with a 6-over-par 222 (75-72-75) while Feldick shared 28th after shooting an 8-over 224 (75-77-72). Senior Brian DeBuhr was Iowa's top finishers for two-consecutive tournaments as he shot a 1-over-par 217 (70-74-73) at the Furman Invite in Greenville, SC on March 26 before notching a 3-over 216 (73-70-73) at the Marshall Invite the following weekend. He was named Big Ten Co-Golfer of the Week on March 29 after his performance at the Furman Invite. Freshman Cole Peevler has really stepped up during his freshman campaign. The Keokuk, Iowa native, finished third for the Hawkeyes in as many tournaments and helped Iowa record its highest place of the season at fifth at the Spring Classic in Mobile Alabama. Iowa enters this year's championships with a 1992 event title under its belt with hopes to increase that mark.

The Wolverines are currently tied for second in the league with 12 Big Ten Championships titles and will be led this weekend by senior Brandon Duff and Chrstian Vozza, junior Matt McLaughlin and sophomores Brian Ottenweller and Tim Schaetzel. Vozza was the top U-M finisher last year as he tied for 24th with a 3-over-par 219 (74-70-75). Schaetzel tied for 32nd after shooting a 5-over 221 (76-70-75) while Ottenweller finished with a 228 stroke total (75-75-78). This season Schaetzel has led U-M in three tournaments, highlight by a career-best 167 36-hole performance at the Pinehurst Intercollegiate on March 19-21. Ottenweller tallied a 207 54-hole stroke total at the Alister MacKenzie Invite which marked a career-best for the sophomore. Throughout this season, Michigan has tallied 31 rounds under par while Duff and Schaetzel were the only two Wolverines to compete in each tournament. Both Wolverines have career-best stroke averages under their belts as Duff sits at 75.56 and Schaetzel is not far behind at 75.53. Junior Kevin Dore leads all U-M golfers with a 74.00 stroke average while Vozza is averaging 75.46 for the season. Duff has been the leader of the pack for Michigan four different times this season and recorded his most recent top-10 finish at the Kepler Invite, placing ninth with a 6-over 222 (73-72-77).

The Spartans will look to defend their title from a year ago when MSU claimed the 2005 Big Ten Championships title with an 847 (282-276-289) team stroke performance. It was the first team crown for Michigan State in 36 years and first for Head Coach Mark Hankins, later named the league's Coach of the Year. All-Conference honorees Matt Harmon and Ryan Brehm return for the Spartans this season after posting top-three finishes last year. Brehm earned second-team All-Big Ten accolades and was name Freshman of the Year as he placed second with school record 13-under-par 203 (68-65-70) while first-team honoree Harmon was just six strokes behind at 7-under 209 and earned third place. They have combined for 12 career top-five finishes. Brehm currently leads the team with a 73.96 scoring average this season. Harmon was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week on March 23 after he won his first career individual title at Georgia Southern's EZ-GO Schenkel Invite, posting a career-best 54-hole score of 9-under-par 207 (68-69-70).  A freshman trio of Steve Cuzzort, Randy Hutchison and Grant Tungate, who have combined for a 76.15 scoring average thus far will more than likely pose a threat at this year's championships. Michigan State will be vying for its third team title.

The Golden Gophers enter the 2006 Big Ten Championships as the No. 2 seed, after making a few sparks in the national rankings this past week. Currently Minnesota is ranked 33rd in the Golfweek Team Rankings while junior Bronson La'Cassie sits at No. 94 in the individual rankings. The Gophers, that boast four different Big Ten Golfers of the Week this season, will look to win their seventh title and third in the past five years this weekend in Lake Forest, Ill. They will be led by a senior Josh Persons, juniors Niall Turner and La'Cassie and freshman Victor Almstrom, all conference weekly honorees. Two-time All-American La'Cassie, who tied for 16th at last year's championships, led Minnesota to a second-place finish last weekend at the Fossum Invite after he tied for second with a career-best 2-under-par 214 and a season low 69 stroke final round. Turner turned in the highest finish for the Gophers at the National Invitational tournament on March 28 with a 1-under 215 (71-72-72) to earn Big Ten Golfer of the Week. Persons has been Minnesota's most consistent golfer all spring sharing weekly accolades with teammate Almstrom after their play at the Augusta State Invitational. Almstrom has played in every event this spring and has recorded two top-10 finishes.

The No. 1 seeded Wildcats will play host to the 87th annual Big Ten Men's Golf Championships this weekend. This marks the first time in 50 years that Northwestern has hosted the event. This year plays out to be very significant in the NU records books. The 2006 championships will mark the 40-, 20- and 10-year anniversaries of three Wildcat individual titles. John Seehausen claimed the 1996 crown while in 1986 Jim Benepe shot his way to a first-place finish before Jonathan Loosemore accomplished the same feat ten years later in 1996. Northwestern currently ranks 27th, the highest Big Ten team ranked in the Golfweek Team Rankings. Junior David Merkow sits atop all league competitors in the individual rankings at No. 64 and NU's stroke average leader and earned Big Ten Golfer of the Week on March 2 after his seventh-place finish with a 3-under 213 (71-70-72) at the Puerto Rico Classic. The Wildcats boast to more conference weekly honorees in junior Chris Wilson and sophomore Kyle Moore. Wilson is coming off a career-best second-place finish with a 2-under 214 (70-68-76) at the Fossum/Taylor Made Invite last weekend. His performance as good enough to earn him Co-Golfer of the Week honors on April 25. Moore, who is averaging 47.48 on the season earn weekly accolades on April 19 after his 1-under 215 first-place finish at the Kepler Invite last weekend. Each Wildcat has finished in the top-six of a tournament this year while all five have low rounds in the 60s. Northwestern is currently tied with Illinois with seven team titles.

The Buckeyes boast the most Big Ten Championships of all conference squads with 23 titles, including a first-place finish for six-consecutive years (1982-87). Ohio State is coming of a sixth-place 283 stroke performance from last year and will look to senior David Vallina and juniors Colin Biles and Jack Tyler to lead the way to victory. Biles is currently the only Buckeye to have competed in all 33 rounds of competition this season and boasts a season-best fourth-place finish at the Fossum Invite on April 23 with a 1-under-par 215 (73-73-69). He leads OSU with best scoring average for the season with 73.3, five top-20 finishes and has shot seven rounds under par. Vallina has notched the second-best average score this season with 75 and recorded a personal best 3-over 219 (71-72-76) and placed 15th, also at the Fossum Invite. Tyler has played the second-most rounds with 30 amongst his teammates this season and has shot a 76.3 scoring average on the year thus far. Freshmen Brandon Markiw and Dan Rush have been an inspiring addition and will represent their class at the championships this weekend. Head Coach Jim Brown will be looking for his 18th Big Ten title.

The Nittany Lions head into the 2006 Big Ten Championships after an eighth-place finish last year and will vying for their first-ever team title. They are coming off a fourth-place finish at the Rutherford Intercollegiate l last weekend where they posted a 903 stroke performance. PSU has been led by sophomore Robert Rohanna this spring as he has been the top finisher for the Nittany Lions in three tournaments, recording a season-best place after tying for fourth with an even-par 72 at the Pinehurst Invite. At the Kepler Invite on April 16 Rohanna notched a 9-over-par 225 and tied for 13th and recorded a 1-over 217 at the Xavier Invite, tying for 23rd. Freshman Chad Bricker has kicked of his rookie campaign this spring, finishing second for Penn State in two tournaments. He placed 55th with a 226 stroke performance at the Xavier Invite before tying for 21st with 3-over 75 at the Pinehurst Invite.

The No. 3 seeded Boilermakers, who are also ranked 42nd in the latest Golfweek Team Rankings, enter this year's championships after placing in the top ten in five tournaments this spring. Purdue boasts the league's third-highest ranked individual in junior Pariya Junhasavasdikul as he sits at No. 81 in the current rankings by Golfweek. The Bangkok, Thailand native, has shot a career-best individual score of 69 twice this spring, once on Feb. 26 at the Puerto Rico Classic and again at the Boilermaker Invite on April 8-9 where he recorded his best finish this season, tying for fifth with a 5-over-par 221 (78-69-74). Sophomore Santiago Russi will also help lead Purdue this weekend after coming off an overall season that saw him notch the lowest individual round score for the Boilers with 67 last fall at the Alister MacKenzie Invite. This spring he has successfully tied with Junhasayasdikul and junior Peter Richardson with a single-round low score of 69, accomplished on Feb. 19 at the Gator Invite. Richardson accomplished the same feat three times last fall. Purdue has won the second-highest total Big Ten Championships with 12. The last time the Boilers have captured the conference crown was in 1981. In the past six years, under Head Coach Devon Brouse, Purdue has finished as high as second in 2000 and 2001 and never placed below fifth.

Last year's host, Wisconsin, finished seventh at the 2005 Big Ten Championships, highlight by junior Garret Jones tie for 21st place. Jones will look to pace the Badgers this weekend as he leads the team with a 73.06 scoring average which ranks second in school history behind his very own 72.74 average from last season. He has recorded top-25 finishes in all 11 tournaments this year, including six top-15 performances and two top-five marks. The junior has played in 82 consecutive tournaments during his tenure at Wisconsin. Other Badgers looking to make an impact this weekend will be sophomore Jeff Kaiser and freshman Tyler Obermueller. Kaiser ranks second for the Badgers with a scoring average of 74.59 and is one of only two UW golfers to compete in all 32 tournament rounds this season. He has been the top finisher for UW in three tournaments this spring, most recently at the Boilermaker Invite where he tied for 11th with a 7-over-par 223 (72-76-75). In 26 rounds of golf played, Obermueller has tallied a 75.2 scoring average which ranks him third on the team. He recorded his career-best finish at the Memphis Intercollegiate this fall where he placed 16th with a 5-over 221 (76-73-72). UW has won three Big Ten championships in its history, including back-to-back titles in 1993 and 1994. The Badgers also won the 1957 championship. Four Wisconsin players have won the individual title, most recently Ben Walter in 1994.