The Aggies will face a tough task as they take the course in 2011-12.
UC Davis enters the season without Austin Graham, who graduated last season after being named to the Big West Conference First Team three straight seasons.
“Graham was a great player and a great guy,” said coach Cy Williams. “He had such a great work ethic and he really focused. We’re going to need our veterans to step up, because you can’t really replace a player like Austin Graham.”
Not only did the Aggies lose their best golfer from last season, but they will be without their second-best as well. Senior Tyler Raber will be redshirting this season in order to improve his chances playing golf beyond the collegiate level.
“He really wants to play professional golf, and I think him getting another year of maturity and experience will give him a better chance to get onto the [professional] tour and might open some more doors,” Williams said.
With both Graham and Raber out of the picture, the Aggies will rely heavily on sophomore Matt Hansen this season.
Hansen made an appearance in the NCAA National Championship Tournament last season and finished second on the team with an average of 72-strokes per-round.
“Hansen is just a superstar,” Williams said. “He wants to be a great player and he wants to be a professional and he works really hard. He is very talented, but his work ethic is amazing. He has a plan for how to get better and he sticks to it.”
Junior Andrew Haggen will also be expected to step up this season. Haggen played in all of UC Davis’ tournaments last season and was fourth on the team with an average of 73.3-strokes per-round. With Hansen and Haggen seemingly penciled into the starting lineup, the Aggies still have three starting positions up for grabs as they enter the season.
“[Having the spots open] will give us a chance to have our young golfers really compete this year,” Williams said. “It means everyone has a chance to get into the lineup, and we believe it will accelerate the learning curve for our young players this season.”
One early favorite to step up and fill a starting spot is sophomore Matt Seramin. The San Geronimo, Calif. native played just 12 rounds last year, but had strong performances over the summer.
“Matt Seramin has really elevated his game this year,” Williams said. “He has worked hard over the summer and he looks like he can not only start but be a really good contributor for us.”
Williams also expects that several of his players will continue to improve as the season goes along. With just two upperclassmen and no seniors on the active roster, the Aggies will need to learn on the fly this year.
“We’ve really got to make sure the young guys know how to continue getting better,” Williams said. “They need to learn how to identify weaknesses and work on them. Our veteran players know how to work on their game, but the younger players still need to learn that skill, and we will need them to learn it quickly.”
Despite the lack of experience in the squad, UC Davis still has high aspirations for this season. After winning the Big West two of the last three seasons, the Aggies are setting their sights on another league title in 2011-12.
“Our main goal every year is to keep getting better,” Williams said. “As far as tangible goals, we’re going to win the Big West; that’s our plan, and once you’re in the postseason anything can happen.”
UC Davis will open its season Monday at the Husky Invitational in Bremerton, Wash.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at email@example.com.