High Hopes As 'Dogs Enter Spring Season

Feb. 4, 2013

By Elly Walker

With the return of seven members from the 2011-12 team and the addition of four new players, the Fresno State men's golf team kick off their first spring season in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs are anchored by senior Rufie Fessler and junior Nate Jessup, who are tied for fifth place in the MW ranking, and freshman Troix Tonkham, who also sits in the top 20 of the MW ranking.

The `Dogs opened up the fall season with their best team finish at the St. Mary's College Invitational, where they took fourth place. Jessup and Tonkham both had their best season finish at the St. Mary's College Invitational. Jessup shot even par and tied for eighth place and Tonkham shot one over par and tied for 10th.

The Bulldogs continued their fall season at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational hosted by No. 1 Cal, where Fessler took a top 10 finish. The Bulldogs then traveled to Stockton, Calif. to compete in the Pacific Invitational. The `Dogs battled on the course and Jessup fired his best score of the season with a nine under par, 207.

The 'Dogs wrapped up the fall season in paradise at the Warrior Wave Intercollegiate in Kauai, Hawaii at the Princeville Golf Course.

"I think it's important that we look back at some of the rounds in the fall where we played well to help us begin to believe that we are plenty good enough to compete and win golf tournaments," Fessler said.

The fall season proved that the 'Dogs have the ability for a championship title.

The Bulldogs face a full spring schedule with seven tournaments, including their host tournament, the Fresno State Lexus Classic.

"We've had a solid fall," head coach Mike Watney said. "Nate and Rufie both averaged 71+ for four tournaments. However, I feel there is a lot more that these guys and the whole team can accomplish. We've had four different guys shoot 65 or better in tournament qualifiers. That is some major firepower that we haven't had for a long time."

The Bulldogs tee off the spring season in San Diego, Calif. at the Farms Collegiate Invitational. The 'Dogs will then travel to La Quinta, Calif. to compete in The Prestige at the PGA West, Greg Norman Course.

Following the first two spring tournaments, the Bulldogs host the Fresno State Lexus Classic at the Belmont Country Club. The Fresno State Lexus Classic will be held on March 4-5 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The 'Dogs hit the road again as they travel to compete in the Bandon Dunes Championship, Cal Poly Match Play Championship, Western Intercollegiate and Winchester Invitational.

"The spring schedule gives us a number of opportunities against top opponents to climb in the rankings and prepare us for the end of the season," Fessler said. "We get to travel to some awesome courses, and it will be a fun experience with the guys. Our end goal as a team is to of course make it to a regional."

The Bulldogs close their spring season at the MW Championship in Tuscon, Ariz. where they have the potential to take home the victory and then continue to a regional.

"I'm really looking forward to the spring," head coach Mike Watney said. "I love our schedule and I love this team. It is always hard to get to the postseason but this team certainly has the skills to win the MW championship and to advance to the postseason. Plus, another thing I like is that 100 percent of the team is on track to graduate. It is the same will to excel that propels student-athletes to college degrees and conference championships."

As the men's golf team wraps up its 2012-13 season, they will say goodbye to the strong leadership and skill of four seniors including Rufie Fessler, Johnny Partridge, Jack Mulroy, and Rich Gilkey.

"I'm proud of these four seniors," Watney said. "They have led by example. They are dedicated student-athletes and are all on track to graduate."

The countdown to men's golf begins as the Bulldogs swing into their spring season on Monday, February 11.

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