With many fall sports already underway, the Michigan men’s golf team is busy preparing for its first tournament of the season on Monday.
After a disappointing 10th-place finish at Big Ten Championships last season, the Wolverines will look to their two seniors, Miguel Echavarria and Matt Alessi, to lead a large group of underclassmen into the Inverness Intercollegiate Tournament in Toledo, Ohio. There, Michigan will take on 11 teams, including fellow Big Ten opponents Ohio State, Michigan State, and Penn State.
There are big shoes to fill this season after All-Big Ten and All-Region golfer Matt Thompson graduated last year. Thompson finished 19th at the NCAA regionals but has now moved on to the amateur Gold Tour, where he’s tallied multiple top-10 finishes.
“He was the best player in the history of the program,” said Michigan coach Chris Whitten. “He had the lowest scoring average in the history of the team. Matt Thompson is impossible to replace.”
But the second-year headman will not only look to his two seniors to pick up where Thompson left off, but to the entire team for improvement throughout the year.
“I think if everyone can be a little better than last year, we’ll have a chance,” Whitten said.
Whitten has set aspirations for the team’s upcoming season, focusing on one particular tournament.
“The goals stay the same for every year, and the first goal is to win the Big Ten Championship,” Whitten said. “It’s one tourney at the end of the year. (The) whole season gets us ready for that one special tournament.”
Meanwhile, the month of September will be a crucial time for Whitten to mentor the young Wolverines. He will have some help from Echavarria, who was recently named team captain.
Echavarria and Alessi are the only golfers on the team who recorded top-20 finishes in any tournament last season. But only the slightest bit of leadership will go a long way out on the course this fall.
“Miguel is somebody who made a huge improvement from sophomore to junior year. He brings a lot of leadership and off-course stuff,” Whitten said. “Matt Alessi is a guy that the team really looks up to (and) the way he handles himself at practice.”
With a year under his belt as head coach, Whitten has now instilled what he calls “core values” into the Michigan golf program.
These values — confidence, attitude, purpose, integrity and trust — build the groundwork of how Whitten wants his team to practice, compete and have a mindset.
“If the process is right, the results will follow,” Whitten said.
With his philosophy of preparation and dedication now firmly installed within the program, both on and off the course, Whitten believes he has the Wolverines headed in the right direction.