SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - The Seton Hall men's golf team enters the 2012-13 campaign without four-year starter and vocal leader Troy Spencer, who graduated last May, but it will not be devoid of leadership. Brandon Park (Weston, Fla.), one of the most decorated golfers in Seton Hall history, returns for his senior year and will be looking to guide the Pirates to team glory.
Youth is certainly being served this year following the graduations of Spencer and John Dawson Neufeld. Head Coach Clay White brought in a pair of highly-coveted freshman to take the sting off of losing two key contributors.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what David and Cory can contribute," White said. Both will get an excellent opportunity to crack the starting lineup. If they can stabilize the back of the lineup, we could be in position to surprise some teams this year."
David Cha (Carrollton, Texas) and Cory Wilson (Newton, N.J.) are the aforementioned newcomers to Pirates. Cha served as team captain for the boy's golf squad Hebron High School and recorded two, top-five finishes in two appearances on the Texas Junior Golf Tour last year. Wilson was a four-time All-Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) selection as a golfer, playing in the number one position. He becomes the second former Newton Brave on the team, as Marc Kunesch (Newton, N.J.) hales from the same town and attended the same high school.
Seton Hall is hoping the new blood can keep the team performing well. Last year, the Pirates won three tournaments, which ties for the second-most team victories in one academic year. Led primarily by Spencer and Park, Seton Hall earned victories at the Lehigh Invitational, Fireline Towson Invitational and Manor Intercollegiate. The Pirates hadn't won as many as three team titles in one year since 1993-94.
This year, it appears as though the Pirates will go as far as Brandon Park takes them. Seton Hall's only two-time All-BIG EAST Team selection, he has twice lead the team in yearly stroke average, and finished just over a half of a stroke more than Spencer last year. On Oct. 16, Park finished on top of the Barnabas Health Intercollegiate scoreboard, but lost the tie-breaker. Only one week later, Park won his first career individual title, a one-stroke victory at the Lehigh University Invitational. His even-par performance enabled the Pirates to take home the team title at that tournament as well.
Seton Hall will enter the 2011-12 academic year with a pair of All-BIG EAST golfers on the roster. Junior Gary Dunne (Wickow, Ireland) had a strong spring season and it culminated with a career-best 1-under par, 72-74-69-215, at the BIG EAST Championship to finish the tournament tied for seventh place overall and as the Pirates' top competitor. Dunne's 74.14 spring stroke average was third-best on the team. Dunne and Spencer were named to the All-BIG EAST Team in May.
"In order for us to be competitive and vie for a BIG EAST title, we're really going to need Brandon and Gary to step up," White said. They're by far our two most-experienced golfers on the roster and both are All-BIG EAST performers. If we're going to get to the next level, Brandon and Gary are going to have to be significant contributors."
Sophomore Derrick Kim (New City, N.Y.) contributed mightily to the team despite being just a freshman last year. He competed in 11 of 12 tournaments and posted two, top-10 individual finishes. A reliable contributor, Kim finished in the top-15 individually of all three tournament team victories for the Pirates last year.
Junior Marc Kunesch will also be looking to push the back of the Pirates' lineup this year. He competed in four events last year, two as an independent, and had a career-best finish at the Yale Spring Opener, tying for 25th place overall.
NAVY FALL CLASSIC NOTES:
Seton Hall will open the 2012 fall season at the Naval Academy Golf Course in Annapolis, Md. for the Navy Fall Classic. The Pirates haven't competed at this tournament since 2009. Back then, freshman Brandon Park led the team with an even-par, 68-74-142, to tie for ninth overall and lead the team to a third place finish among a field of 17 teams. The team's +6 performance was by far its best of the 2009-10 year.
The 19th edition of the Navy Fall Classic is set for Saturday and Sunday at the par-71 Naval Academy Golf Course with 18 holes set for both days. Teams will tee off between 8:00 am and noon on both days.
The Midshipmen will field three teams - Navy Blue, Gold and White - in the 15-team tournament, and will be joined by Brown, Delaware, Lafayette, La Salle, McDaniel College, North Dakota State, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Francis (Pa.), Saint Joseph's, Seton Hall, Siena and Temple.
In the 18 years the Navy Fall Classic has been played, only three teams have claimed the tournament title more than once - Navy, George Mason and Delaware, who has won each of the last two crowns.
Be sure to check www.SHUpirates.com for complete coverage following each day's events.