Army Set To Defend League Title

Brian Watts (left) and Robby Hill

Brian Watts (left) and Robby Hill

April 25, 2012

Watch A Feature On The Black Knights

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army golf team will look to defend its Patriot League title this weekend at the conference championships at Bucknell Golf Club.

Army won the Patriot League Golf Tournament last year in Annapolis, Md., and will attempt to repeat when the 54-hole event gets under with 36 holes on Saturday. Sunday's 18-hole final round will determine the winner and who advances to the NCAA Tournament.

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The Black Knights won their 10th championship in 2011 by four strokes over Navy and nine in front of Lafayette.

"Our approach is the same," said Army head coach Brian Watts. "We prepared differently for the golf course but our approach is the same. Our guys are in great shape mentally and physically."

Army will rely on accuracy off the tee to navigate Bucknell Golf Club, a par-70, 6,253-yard layout that features thick rough and slick greens. The lack of length on the course demands solid drives off the tee and excellent wedge play to help navigate greens that are traditionally very quick.

This marks the second time this year that Army has played Bucknell Golf Club, on the heels of a second-place finish at the Bucknell Fall Invitational. Army shot an 866 and was nine strokes behind Longwood at that September tournament.

"Patience is the key," said Watts. "Our players know that a lot of pars and a few birdies will go a long way on this course. We can't make the mental mistake of one bad shot leading to another. We have talked from day one about avoiding a big number and not letting one mistake lead to another."

The Black Knights have had plenty of success at the league's marquee event, including last season when Watts was named the Coach of the Year in his initial season and Matt Krembel claimed the individual championship.

Krembel has since been commissioned as a second lieutenant but Army still features a somewhat veteran lineup. In his second season, Watts has had to battle injury and illness to his players but finally has a healthy group.

In the seven-team Patriot League Golf Championship, each team plays six golfers with the low four scores counting each round.

Army will send senior William Park, juniors Matt Philie and Eric Park, sophomores Anthony Kim and Brandon Baerwaldt and freshman Robby Hill to Lewisburg, Pa.

"Having played the course and with the success we at had Bucknell in the fall where we beat the Patriot League schools who competed, it's certainly an advantage," said Watts.

Kim was a first-team All-Patriot League choice last year after finishing tied for fourth and narrowly missing out on Rookie of the Year honors.

Kim has played in 11 events this season and leads the team with a 75.7 scoring average. He has secured six top-10 finishes and has a team-high seven rounds of par or better. He shot a 216 during the fall event at Bucknell, including a 69 in the final round, to finish tied for second.

William Park was a second-team All-Patriot League selection in 2009 when he placed ninth. He has competed in 10 events this season and averages a 77.6. He has two top-10 showings and one under-par round this year, a 69, at the Bucknell Fall event.

Philie, the league Rookie of the Year in 2010, has played in nine events this season and averages a 77.0. He has three top-10 finishes and two under-par rounds this season. He shot a 68 at Bucknell earlier this season to tie for sixth.

Baerwaldt is making his first appearance at the league championship. He has played in six events this season and averages a 77.6 per round. His best finish this season was a tie for 11th at the Bucknell Fall Invitational where he shot 73-72-71 and competed as an individual.

Hill has completed in seven events in his freshman season and has an 81.1 stroke average with one top-10 finish.

Eric Park will be competing in the league championships for the second time in his career. He tied for 38th as a freshman when it was held at Seven Oaks Golf Course in Hamilton, N.Y. Park has played in five events this season and finished in the top-20 twice while averaging 84.2 strokes per round.

Army rallied to place 16 of 17 teams at the Wolfpack Spring Invitational in Raleigh, N.C., in its last event April 15. Army fired a spring season-low 299 in the final round.

The winner of the Patriot League Golf Championship will earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. NCAA Regionals are scheduled for May 17-19 at sites across the country with the NCAA Championships set for May 29-June 3 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

"The guys are in a great place," said Watts. "We had a solid last round at North Carolina State and put up some good numbers in our practice rounds last weekend at Baltusrol Golf Club. The team is relaxed and ready to play."

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