BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Birmingham-Southern men's golf team is ready to tee off the 2019-20 campaign after a fifth-place finish in the Southern Athletic Association last season.
"I'm feeling really good and optimistic about this year," said head coach Richard Schmidt. "I'm just excited, really. We've got some good players, and I'm ready to get going and see what they can do."
The Panthers put 12 golfers on the roster this season with a majority being newcomers. BSC has six freshmen, four sophomores and two seniors. Schmidt says the team will be looking to the two seniors for stability and leadership.
"We have two seniors returning who have played a lot the last two years in Thomas Iturbe (Mobile, Ala./UMS-Wright HS) and Blake Schambeau (Hoover, Ala./Hoover HS)," Schmidt said. "We need them to do well this year to have a successful season because we have a young team this year."
Iturbe and Schambeau competed in every tournament for the Panthers last season. Iturbe had four top 25 finishes last season including a sixth-place finish at the Royal Lakes Fall Invitational. Schambeau finished ninth at the SAA Tournament last year and earned Second Team All-SAA honors.
Even with the experience on the team, more players will have to step up for BSC to be successful this season, Schmidt said.
"We've got 12 guys on the team this year and half of those guys are freshmen," he said.
Newcomers to the team including freshmen Price Bryan (Jackson, Miss./Saint Andrew's Episcopal), Ethan Dawson (Edmond, Okla./Bishop McGuinness HS), Davis Fisher (Greenville, N.C./Junius H. Rose HS), Connor Hawkins (Franklin, Tenn./Franklin HS), Elliot Iturbe (Mobile, Ala./UMS-Wright HS) and Britton Khalaf (Metairie, La./Jesuit HS). Sophomore transfer Preston Cox (Frisco, Texas/Southern Arkansas) was also added to the squad.
"Some of these guys are going to have to step up and play well and prove themselves," Schmidt said.
The number of players on the team means that in a given tournament, half the team will likely be left out of the action. Because of this, Schmidt said, the competition for spots will be tight.
"There's going to be a lot of competition," he said. "It's going to be hard to make it on the travel squad this year. But I think we'll be able to put good teams out there because of that competition and because the guys will be hungry to be out there."
The Panthers will start the season at the SAA Preview tournament on Sept. 7-8 at the Greystone Golf Club in Dickson, Tenn. BSC will wrap the month up with the Rhodes Fall Classic followed by the Oglethorpe Fall Invitational and Berry/Chick-fil-A Invitational in October to end the fall season.
In the spring, the Panthers will play in four more tournaments before the SAA Tournament in late April.
"Our schedule this year is identical to the one we had last year," Schmidt said. "Obviously the returners will be on courses they'll be comfortable with and are familiar with so that is helpful, but they'll be new to our younger guys."
"I try to get us in the best tournaments possible so we have a chance of being ranked if we play well," he added.
And playing well, at the very least, is the expectation Schmidt has for his Panther team this season.
"Honestly, I think we have a good shot of playing well and really pushing to win some of these tournaments," he said. "I'm not saying we will win every tournament or anything, but I do expect that we'll be very competitive and if we're not winning then we'll be really close to it."
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