GVSU men’s golf looks to youth in 2016

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Chris Beltzer takes a swing April 29 at the Meadows Golf Course in Allendale.

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Chris Beltzer takes a swing April 29 at the Meadows Golf Course in Allendale.

Brendan McMahon

After an up-and-down start to the 2015-16 season in the fall, the Grand Valley State men’s golf team is eager to get back to competition this spring.

GVSU participated in four tournaments last fall. The Lakers claimed a first-place finish in the GLIAC North Invitational in September, but came up short of first place in the other tournaments.

GVSU head coach Gary Bissell is currently in his second season coaching the Lakers. He found his team did not reach its potential in the fall season, but believes the experience gained will be key moving forward.

The fall season was important for the Lakers to continue to develop and improve in certain aspects of the game like wedge play and putting — two areas that Bissell stressed the Lakers need to be more consistent with in order to succeed in the spring.

“We’re a young team but we grew a lot in the fall,” Bissell said.

Though the Lakers identify as a young team, they do not lack senior leadership, returning the trio of Chris Beltzer, Austin Eccleton, and Tyler Polulak. Polulak competed in all 10 tournaments last fall, averaging a 74 in those 21 rounds, good enough to earn him an All-GLIAC Second Team award.

“We had some good finishes and some bad finishes in the fall, but we just got to stay consistent and stay competitive within the team,” Polulak said.

Bissell is also relying on sophomore Domenic Mancinelli to continue to lead in the approaching spring season. Mancinelli won GLIAC Men’s Golf Freshman of the Year Award in 2014-15 and was also All-GLIAC Second Team honoree.

“I just got to keep my head on straight and be an example for the freshmen this year,” Mancinelli said.

The Lakers have a host of talented young golfers, including freshman Bryce Messner. Messner played eight rounds in the fall season, averaging a 75.38, the second-best average on the team in the fall. Just behind Messner was freshman Mitchell White, who played six rounds and averaged a 75.67 per round.

Bissell believes depth is one of the best qualities of his team.

“We’re a close-knit team because the competition brings out the best in them,” Bissell said. “The players are gritty and competitive on the course but friendly off the course.”

This internal competition forces players to compete hard in practice in order to play in tournaments. Bissell wants the best competition the Lakers are going to see to be against themselves in practice.

Depth is just one the various strengths for GVSU — a good driving team which is effective with mid-range irons. What the Lakers lack in experience, they hope to make up with their intangibles.

“We’re competitive, hard-working and passionate about the game,” Polulak said.

Despite a shaky fall season, there is no lack of confidence for the Lakers heading into the spring. The expectations are set high, but Bissell does not want his team to get too far ahead of itself.

“There’s nothing they can’t accomplish, but we have to stay grounded,” Bissell said.

Bissell wants to see his team build momentum throughout the season and play its best golf come postseason. The Lakers are setting their sights on a GLIAC championship and a chance at nationals.

GVSU begins its spring season on March 7 in Russellville, Arkansas at the Dave Falconer Classic.