A week after his team competed for the NCAA championship, Chattanooga golf coach Mark Guhne drug himself out of bed at 4 a.m., piled into his Nissan Pathfinder and set the controls for South Carolina. Coaches from ACC or SEC programs may be able to pick and choose players, but Guhne needs to pound the pavement recruiting, which is his mission on this trip.
The destination was the Palmetto Amateur, where, in addition to checking out talent for the class of 2013, he was looking in on a couple of fall signees, Wes Gosselin of Knoxville and Michael Monroe of Franklin. Neither made the cut in their first tournament of the summer competing against a college-type field, but the experience was important.
Along with Kory Webb, who’s also from Knoxville, Guhne’s efforts have resulted in what may prove to be his best recruiting haul yet. All three players are ranked in the top 100 nationally. Gosselin has already qualified for the U.S. Amateur (last year), and he won his U.S. Junior Amateur by shooting rounds of 69 and 66, nine under par.
Monroe played in 15 tournaments and won four of them in 2011, and Webb, the highest rated among the in-state trio, won twice.
Another plus is that all three are in-state signees. They qualify for academic and lottery scholarship money, which means Guhne can stretch his allotment of four-and-a-half scholarships farther.
“We’ve got three great freshmen coming in,” Guhne said. “We is very similar to (former Moc star) Jonathan Hodge. He hits it really straight. He’s very smart, and his short game is just phenomenal. He hits it plenty long, but he’s not like Benni (Weilguni) and Chris (Robb); he doesn’t just bomb it out there.
“Michael Monroe is a big hitter. He’s a bomber. He won quite a few tournaments last summer. He’s got a little bit to learn, but once he figures out how to manage himself, once we can help him get that power of his under control, I think he could be a great player. He has a good short game and is a good putter.
“Kory Webb is kind of the unsung guy, but he’s the highest ranked of the three. He’s also a good putter. That’s something I really look for. Hitting the ball is nice, but you’ve got to be able to get it in the hole.”
Guhne, whose team finished 18th and out of match play at the NCAA Championships at famed Riviera Country Club earlier this month, already looks forward to next season. He’ll still have a young team. Steve Fox, who shot a course-record 64 in the NCAA Bowling Green Regional won by the Mocs, and Alex Ratliff are the only seniors. Robb, Weilguni and Davis Bunn will be juniors and Liam Johnston a sophomore. Along with the three incoming freshmen, he’ll have his deepest and most talented roster.
“Nobody’s going to replace Stephan Jaeger,” Guhn said, referring to the outgoing No. 1 player who leaves several school and Southern Conference records behind. “That’s not possible. But as far as team score wise, I think we can actually be better.
“Besides Jaeger, who was great all year, the rest of our guys steadily improved throughout the year. What they did at the conference and regional tournaments (both Chattanooga victories) was very impressive. If we work on the right things this summer and early into the fall, I think we can actually be a better team.”
Guhne expects the freshmen to make an impact.
“Our qualifying is going to be very competitive with those three coming in,” he said. “It’s definitely going to get tougher to break into our (five-man) lineup. I could see all three of the freshmen moving in and out of the lineup, and one or two being in there quite a while.”