Joe Dodson, Staff Writer
After a season of individual victories but subpar team success, VCU golf is hoping to put in a complete performance for the upcoming Atlantic 10 tournament.
“Now that everyone’s had that taste of individual success, it’s time for everyone to step up at the same time,” senior Kristian Tannum Donaldson said. “I think we’re all ready to play our best.”
Over eight spring tournaments, VCU finished in first and second place twice each, along with two fifth place finishes. The Rams will tee off to defend their conference title at the Reunion Resort and Golf Club in Orlando, Florida, from April 30 to May 2.
In their last regular season event, the Rams took down crosstown rivals Richmond in the annual Black and Blue Cup hosted at the Country Club of Virginia in a match-play format.
Six players have had top-10 finishes this season, and five Rams have led the team in tournaments.
“This team has the most depth in my time playing here,” junior Adrian Vagberg said. “If someone’s not playing well, there are five guys who are hungry to play well.”
After recording the sixth-best scoring average in program history last season at 72.37 over 19 rounds, Vagberg suffered a preseason wrist injury and midseason back injury forcing him to miss two tournaments.
Vagberg led VCU to a first-place finish, shooting 213 at the par-70 Golden Horseshoe Intercollegiate tournament in Williamsburg, Virginia, from March 29-30. Vagberg tied the VCU single-round record mark and set a tournament record when he shot a 64 on a par-72 course in the second round of the East Carolina University Intercollegiate tournament from March 22-23.
“I was just in shock that I was playing that well,” Vagberg said. “After having struggled a little bit with my golf, it felt reassuring to know that I had a round like that in me.”
Redshirt senior Peter Gasperini leads the team with three low man performances and in stroke average with 72.76. Coach Matt Ball said the first-year Radford transfer has taken on a leadership role in the clubhouse.
“You couldn’t ask for a better guy to be a part of the team,” senior Sachin Kumar said of Gasperini. “Just a real team player.”
Kumar has taken impressive steps in his development this season, Ball said. The co-captain has improved his stroke average from 74.47 last season to a career best of 72.91.
“My putting has improved significantly,” Kumar said. “I feel like I can make every putt out there.”
Ball said this is the best pitching and chipping team he has coached in his 22 years at VCU. Tannum Donaldson said the short game helps the team remain competitive in tight tournaments.
“The biggest thing with pitching and chipping is that no matter how bad you’re playing you can still put together a round,” Tannum Donaldson said. “At A-10 [tournaments] it’s especially important.”
One issue for the Rams and other teams this spring is ball striking, Ball said. High winds, dormant fairways and mud sticking to the balls attribute to inconsistencies in the long game.
“That’s really where inconsistency has come,” Ball said. “Spring is probably the most difficult time.”
Ball said he expects great playing conditions should help ball striking for the conference tournament in Florida.
“I’m hoping that ball striking becomes one of our strengths to go with our short game,” Ball said. “I think if that happens it gives us a really good chance to repeat.”
VCU will travel to the Reunion Resort and Golf Club in Orlando, Florida, to compete in the A-10 championship tournament from April 30-May 2.
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