VILLANOVA, Pa. - Unlike years past, Villanova men's golf presents a young roster where half of its student-athletes are freshmen entering their second semester on the Main Line. As the Wildcats gear up for the start of its six-tournament spring schedule beginning the first week of March, the team hopes to continue to get the same production out of its freshmen as it did in its fall schedule which featured events in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.
Three of the four freshmen came to Villanova as a group of East Coast recruits with Andy Butler from Oakmont, Pa., Will Byrne from McLean, Va. and Zach Egermayer out of Glen Rock, N.J. Andrew MacMillan made the farthest trip of the current Wildcats from his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz. These four men look out for each other, on and off the course, and gain even more experience from the team's upperclassmen.
"Without a doubt we rely on the experience of the upperclassmen," said Butler. "They've been college athletes a lot longer than we have and consequently, they are more comfortable with doing all the little things you have to do in order to maximize your potential."
That potential is something that Villanova student-athletes need to strive for both on the course and in the classroom due to the high academic standards of Villanova University. "I felt that it was more off the course than on the course," said the Oakmont, Pa. native said of his college learning curve. "It took me a little bit of time to figure out how to manage my time properly. Between school and golf there were a lot of things going on first semester and it forced me to learn how to prioritize."
In addition to the balance of schoolwork and prepping their swings for the spring, the freshmen work out early in the morning and spend hours every week in study hall. The cold weather also forces them to get creative with their practice schedule.
"We try to get outside to play when we can but it's tough when it's consistently in the 30s," said Byrne. "We go to GolfTek a couple times a week to video our swings, and we get a lot of work on the range at White Manor under the cover so long as there's no snow on the ground."
While the four don't necessarily have classes with each other, Byrne said that they eat a lot of meals and spend a great deal of time in study hall together as the group builds its chemistry on and off the course.
As the group continues to shape and grow, whether hitting the gym at 6 a.m. for early workouts or helping each other with schoolwork, they represent the building blocks for a program that will graduate two Wildcat seniors in Ted Brennan and Scott Miller this coming May.
Egermayer, who led all Wildcats in the fall with a 75.19 scoring average across seven tournaments, was pleased with his results this past year but also knows he has a lot of different aspects of his game to work on. The New Jersey native mentioned specific goals he hopes to reach in his collegiate career.
"In the short term, I'm looking for giving myself better chances around the green," said Egermayer. "My game off the tee was possibly the best it has ever been and giving myself better opportunities to score will make it easier on myself and keep the bad rounds acceptable. For the long term, I am just looking to grow as a player and take the experience I learn on the course now and use it every time I go out and play."
"Chemistry is the most important aspect of a team and I know our team has common goals and those goals keep us close on and off the golf course," said Egermayer. He also mentioned that a tight-knit team was one of the reasons he chose to attend Villanova.
"Andy, Andrew, Will and I are close and are always trying to help each other with our swings and our games because we want the best for the team. [It] does not matter who is playing because in the end, we are a team."
The Wildcats' spring begins with a dual against Florida Atlantic University in Lake Worth, Fla. starting Mon., March 2. Villanova will also play in North Carolina, Virginia and twice in Pennsylvania this spring before concluding the season in South Carolina for the BIG EAST Championship in late April.