SAINT LEO, Fla. – It was the most successful season in Saint Leo men’s golf history. The Lions produced four team tournament wins, a single-round scoring record, its first-ever team berth into the NCAA Tournament, and also turned out just the second individual to make an appearance at the NCAA Finals in program history.
While that unforgettable 2010 season is now a memory, it now acts as the team's motivating force. With all hands on deck, Head Coach Ray Cisbani sees a youthful and hungry team ready to make 2011 just as memorable.
When the squad hit the course for the beginning of the 2010-11 season, the group had a drastically different look. Seven players were gone from the previous squad, including five graduated seniors. Now, five incoming student-athletes are teamed with five seasoned returners in hopes of continuing the growth and legacy of the program.
“Overall, I feel our guys will be a contending force in the race for a Sunshine State Conference trophy. We gained some much needed experience in the fall, having the opportunity to compete against many of our championship season opponents.” Cisbani continued, “We have athletes on this team that are experienced to what we went through last season, and I expect them to carry that fighting mentality into this season, while making sure our new student-athletes get caught up to speed.”
Youth and potential, while dangerous when describing a talent field, is exactly what this team is and what it has as it begins its march towards a second-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Lions currently sport six underclassman, including four freshmen, in addition to, one senior, three junior and a pair of sophomores.
Tom Lynn is the Lions lone senior this season. For the past two years, Lynn has developed into a steady leader on and off the course for the Green & Gold. He is coming off his best year in 2010, as he collected three top-10 finishes and posted rounds in the 70’s during 24-of-25 rounds played.
Rick Briggs, Ronnie Carlson, and Michael Wozniak round-out the junior class. Briggs, a Zephyrhills native, comes into the championship portion of the season looking to make an immediate impact. He contributed in three tournaments in 2010, and carded seven rounds in 70’s. His best all-around performance came during the Lions third win of 2010 (Treasure Coast Classic) where he registered a one-under 71.
Meanwhile, Carlson and Wozniak both played sparingly a year ago and are seeking to become regular contributors. Both Wozniak and Carlson performed solidly during the fall, combining to compete in three tournaments. Each look to carry over the strong performances as they vie for a spot in the lineup.
Although young age wise, sophomore Nick Brothers will play a vital role in the success of the Lions this season. Brothers, the reigning Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year, pieced together a sensation freshman campaign as he found himself in the on the tournament bracket in each of their nine tournaments. He carded 20 rounds in the 70’s and two rounds in the 60’s, including a season-best 68 at the Buccaneer Invitational. He, along with Lynn, are expected to help leg this back to the national stage once again in 2011.
Joining Brothers is fellow sophomore and newcomer Justin Foster. Foster, a Dunedin, Fla. native, comes to the Lions via Louisberg College in North Carolina. Foster, and his 75.0 scoring average while at Louisberg, is expected to enhance the Lions performance on and off the course.
The youth trend continues as Saint Leo sees four freshmen donning the Lions’ polo for the first time in championship action.
The group includes Codi Daudelin, Chaz Heinz, Terry O’Reilly, and Mark Sabatino. Heinz and O’Reilly are local products, while Daudelin and Sabatino come to Saint Leo from the northeast.
Each of the four are continuing to get accustomed to the high level of competition and talent in the SSC, but that has not weakened the quartet’s resolve and want to get better.
Both Heinz and O’Reilly got a chance to take part in their first collegiate events at the Saint Leo Invitational last fall. In the four combined rounds, Heinz took home a low-round score of 74, and O’Reilly posted an 80 on their home course.
Two other potential regular members of the lineup, both Daudelin and Sabatino enjoyed successful fall campaigns. Daudelin competed in a pair of tournaments, tabulating a scoring average of 77.50 and shooting a low-round 75.
Sabatino impressed during his first collegiate experience. Making an immediate impact as one of Saint Leo’s top performers, Sabatino participated in each of the Lions non-championship season slates. He concluded the fall shooting an average of 74.42. In addition, the Stillwater, NY native shot a fall-low 70 in at the Spartan Invitational and led the team with 21 birdies.
The potential of this team’s youth, combined with the NCAA experience of Brothers and Lynn will make Saint Leo a force to once again be reckoned with in a competitive south region.
The goal is simple, continue to practice, train, fight, and endure all obstacles en route to finishing in the top half of a very difficult Sunshine State Conference, while solidifying another spot in the NCAA Tournament.”
“I know we have the talent and ability to compete with anyone on our schedule on any given day,” said Cisbani, “Now it’s time we go out, play our game, and execute the way we do every day at practice.”
Brothers, Sabatino, Lynn, and the rest of the Lions will tee-off for their first regular season tournament on Monday, February 7, as they travel to Suntree Country Club in Melbourne, Fla. to compete in the Titan Winter Invitational, hosted by Brevard Community College.