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Nov. 18, 1997

1997-98 Men's Golf Outlook

Success. A word synonymous with Florida State golf. With five NCAA Tournament appearances in the 1990's and a 7th place finish following the 1994-95 season, the Seminoles have asserted themselves as one of the most successful golf schools in the nation. Coupled with NCAA success is ten tournament championships and 35 top five finishes under Coach Ernie Lanford.

These accomplishments during the first 50 years have established Florida State as a national power in men's golf circles. This year's Seminole golf team hopes to continue the trend into the next 50 years at Florida State.

Coming into this year after not making the NCAA Championships last season, the Seminoles look to regain the winning edge that has taken them to the top. With the loss of only one player that participated in tournament play last year and the emergence of a group of underclassmen, this team could be as deep as any under Coach Ernie Lanford. Twelve players return from last year's squad giving the Seminoles the depth that it takes to be successful in tournament action. The right blend of experience and youthful exuberance will lead this team into the season and with success, a return trip to the NCAA Championships.

"I realistically think that we are seven deep with experience," said head coach Ernie Lanford. "The top four guys have played in big tournaments and have experienced success."

The Seminoles return four of the top five golfers from last year's squad. Steve Bradley, a redshirt sophomore last season transferred to the University of Florida. Bradley, a native of Ocala, FL, led the Seminoles in three tournaments and finished the season with a stroke average of 73.7. The only other departure for the Seminoles was Tice Vieira, who didn't participate in a tournament last year.

As the Seminoles enter the fall season, the top player will be senior Jason Pool. Pool, a native of Great Falls, VA, is coming off a summer that saw him set the course record of 62 at the Seminole Golf Course. Serving as this year's captain, Pool finished last season with a stroke average of 74.5 and led the Tribe in four of 11 tournaments. Pool is one of three golfers that is entering his four year of competition with the Seminoles, providing leadership and experience needed in the line-up.

"Jason had an exceptional summer," said Lanford. "He gained alot of confidence with the course record that he set and the way he played in the spring. He is our captian this year and will look to him for experience and leadership."

Arguably the most experienced player for the Seminoles this year, George McNeill enters the season as the number two player for the Tribe. McNeill, a three-year veteran for the Seminoles, is the only member of the team to participate in the NCAA Championships twice. A native of N. Fort Myers, McNeill played in only eight tournaments last year. Forced to sit out the fall due to academic complications, McNeill ended the year with five top 20 finishes, including a tied for 8th performance at the ACC Championships. His stroke average of 73.4 led the team last year.

"If McNeill plays the way that he can, he can be an All-American this year," stated Lanford. "He missed last fall and didn't practice much, but he played well in the spring and will be looked upon for great things this year."

The battle for the three and four positions is between senior Barry Dyche and Nathan Bertsch. Dyche, a three-year letter winner, enters his last season with the Seminoles. Dyche played in all 11 tournaments for the Seminoles last season, finishing the year with a stroke average of 74.7. Leading the Tribe with a tied for 5th performance at the Killearn Seminole Classic, Dyche recorded three top 20 finishes.

Bertsch was one of three true freshman to see action last year. A native of Gulf Breeze, FL, Bertsch was the only freshman to play in more than three tournaments, finishing the year with eight appearances. Playing the full spring season and one tournament in the fall, he posted five top 20 finishes. Bertsch's best performance came in the Mercedes Benz Collegiate Championship, finishing tied for 7th with a three-round total of 222, leading the Seminoles to a team championship.

"Nathan was our best player in the spring last season," commented Lanford. "He didn't play well in the fall last year and we didn't expect him to come in and play right away. But down the line, Nathan played well for us."

The fifth and final position is up in the air as the fall season gets underway. The early leader to replace Bradley is freshman Kris Hannah. Hannah, a native of Tallahassee, FL, has impressed Lanford with his work ethic and play in early practices.

Several other candidates are vying for playing time. Craig Cochran, a junior from Rosemont, PA, has played well in early practices. Cochran, a third-year player and cousin of former FSU All-American Bobby Cochran, has played in two tournaments for the Seminoles over the course of his career. Both tournaments came in the 95-96 season, including a 56th place finish at the Country Club of Louisiana Intercollegiate.

"Several players will be vying for the final spot," said Lanford. "Mark Monroe and Kris Hannah have been impressive. Craig Cochran had an excellent summer, but has struggled a little bit in the fall. They will all compete for playing time as the year progresses."

Ryan Felty and Kevin Zuelch return for their second season at Florida State. Felty saw action last year, while Zuelch worked on his game last season in hopes of cracking the line-up. Felty, a native of Selinsgrove, PA, participated in three tournaments last year with his best finish coming in the University of Tennessee Tournament of Championships.

Several other players are expected to challenge the top 5 players for action. Senior James Baker and juniors Jeremy Cranford and Mark Stillwell have shown signs of life in the fall and should put pressure on the top 5 for playing time.

The schedule is no different for the Seminoles. The Seminoles will once again play a tough schedule featuring the ACC Championships and the Seminole Classic. The fall schedule will look much the same as it did last year. The Seminoles once again travel to the Keswick Club Classic, Tennessee Tournament of Champions and the Country Club of Louisiana Intercollegiate. The Seminoles will add the Kroger Intercollegiate, hosted by the University of Memphis, to their fall schedule.

The spring schedule will be highlighted by the Seminole Classic on March 9-10, 1998. This year's Classic will take place at the Golden Eagle Country Club, host to past Nike Tour events. Golden Eagle will take the place of the Killearn Country Club, that hosted the event for the last five years. The ACC Championships will also feature several of the top teams in the country. All nine ACC schools will be represented at the annual event at the Old North State Club in Uwharrie Point, NC.

The Seminoles hope to return to the NCAA East Regional tournament after a one-year hiatus. This year's Regional will be hosted by the University of South Carolina and will take place in Dufaskie, SC. The NCAA Championships will take place at the University of New Mexico Golf Course on May 27-30,1998. The top 30 teams from the three Regional sites will qualify for the Championships in Albuquerque, NM.

With the experience and talent that this team possesses, Florida State will hope to once again grace the NCAA Tournament field. Reasserting themselves with hard work and dedication in the off season, this Seminole team could be one of the best in the 50 years of Florida State golf.

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