Seniors Reminisce on Bulldog Journey

May 23, 2013

By Elly Walker

FRESNO, Calif. -- The end of a school year is a time of celebration and reflection as seniors graduate and move forward to begin news careers and experience new opportunities and look back on their years as a collegiate. This spring was a time for seniors Rufie Fessler, Jack Mulroy, Johnny Partridge and Rich Gilkey to celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on their time as Bulldogs.

Fessler, a Bakersfield, Calif. native, began playing collegiate golf at a community college in his hometown before he was recruited by Fresno State in 2011.

While other seniors attended the 102nd Fresno State commencement ceremony, Fessler was in Tempe, Ariz. representing Fresno State as an individual in the NCAA West Regional where he shot even par and finished tied for 23rd place. On the season, Fessler competed in eleven tournaments, recorded a season low-65 at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational and took home a second place finish at the Bandon Dunes Championship.

Now that he has finished his collegiate career in athletics and academics, Fessler plans to compete in various amateur golf tournaments over the summer before he decides if he will pursue professional golf in the fall.

Along with Fessler, Mulroy and Partridge plan to play in various tournaments over the summer. All three graduates hope to improve their game over the next few months and see where golf can take them.

"The aim is to stay in California and make a career out of golf," Mulroy, a London, England native said.

Mulroy joined the Bulldogs in 2011 after playing at Reedley College. While looking back on the two years he has spent as a Bulldog, Mulroy cherishes these years as the best moments of his life.

Mulroy competed in ten tournaments during the 2012-13 season and fired a season low-68 during the Alister MacKenzie Invitational and the Farms Collegiate Invitational. At the Farms Collegiate Invitational, Mulroy took home a second place medal.

Partridge also joined the Bulldogs in 2011. A Belvedere, Calif. native played golf at College of the Desert before he was recruited by the Fresno State men's golf program. Partridge competed in seven tournaments during the 2012-13 season and carded a season low-67 during round one of competition at the Western Intercollegiate.

After looking back on the two years Partridge spent at Fresno State, Partridge's biggest advice for young collegiate athletes is to savor each moment of his or her experience and not waste any time during the once in a lifetime opportunity they were given.

"I would give anything to play another year, it's just so fun," Partridge said. Gilkey joined the Bulldogs in 2012 after playing at CSU San Marcos. Although this was his final year playing college golf, the Bakersfield, Calif. native will not graduate until next year.

"I wish I had another year, especially with Coach," Gilkey said. "I would love to keep playing golf."

All four seniors agreed that their college experience would not have been as special without their inspirational and dedicated head coach.

"Coach has meant everything to me," Fessler said. "He gave me the opportunity to come to Fresno State when I didn't have too many other colleges recruiting me. I owe everything to him to be here."

Fessler continued to share that head coach Mike Watney always had an answer to any question he or his teammates had, whether that be simple or complex. Watney's words never failed to inspire his team while he encouraged all student-athletes to always challenge themselves and perform their best.

"Coach recruited me and helped build my confidence in my game, Partridge said. "He really believed in me and the talent he has produced in me has helped me believe in myself even further. He has that mentality that you can always get better and he has instilled that in me. I'm going to miss him but hopefully we'll stay in touch and he can kind of be my coach in years to come."

Fessler, Mulroy, Partridge, and Gilkey will be Watney's 35th and final senior class.

"The younger guys have seen four positive role models who will all be successful in life," Watney said. "I like our young guys, too, but they definitely have a challenge before them to match the accomplishments of these seniors in the classroom and on the links."

The four seniors greatly impacted the Fresno State men's golf program and will be missed by their fellow teammates, coach and school.

"I really liked the group of seniors we had this year," Watney said. "They were hard working, good attitude people who never missed a 6:00 am workout."

For the Fessler, Mulroy, Partridge and Gilkey, their time as student-athletes may have ceased, but they will always be Bulldogs and they will always be remembered for the accomplishments they made at Fresno State.