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How can IU golf return to relevance?



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Coach Mike Mayer talks to freshman Evan Yakubov during practice at the IU Golf Course in Jan. 2018. Mayer has been the head coach of IU men's golf for 21 seasons.  IDS file photo Buy Photos

IU men's golf has gone through a bit of a rough stretch in the past few years. 

The last time IU made the NCAA championships was five years ago in 2013. That was also the last time they finished inside the top-8 at the Big Ten Championship. 

Since that historic finish at the Big Ten Championship, IU has finished eighth, 12th, 10th, 11th and 12th in the tournament.

Not exactly an ideal situation. 

IU Coach Mike Mayer has coached every one of those years. In fact, Mayer has been the IU golf head coach for the last 21 seasons. 

While Mayer has recruited and coached All-Americans, such as Jorge Campillo and Jeff Overton, the team has been declining ever since they left Bloomington.

Campillo and Overton combined for four All-America honors in their time at IU. Campillo currently plays on the PGA Tour. He qualified and competed in the British Open and PGA Championship this season.

Overton played in multiple major championships but failed to record a win on tour. However, because of his ability to make birdies, he did earn himself a spot on the 2010 Ryder Cup team. 

While those two prodigies are impressive, quite a lot of time has passed since IU has had someone of that magnitude since Overton graduated in 2005 and Campillo in 2009.

Perhaps the closest thing to them has been senior Jake Brown. 

As an individual, Brown qualified for the NCAA Regional Championship in 2018. The last IU golfer to be selected as an individual was Campillo in 2007. Brown ended up finishing at one under, good enough for T14 with more than 70 golfers in the field.

Talent is clearly on the roster. Sophomore Ethan Shepard went 4-0 at the Big Ten match play last spring season, sophomore Brock Ochsenreiter consistently performed the best last season and seniors Jack Sparrow and Trevor Ranton clearly have the leadership to mentor the talented youth on the roster.

In addition to that young talent on the roster, IU also has an impressive young talent on the coaching staff as well, associate head coach Corey Ziedonis.

Last month, Ziedonis was promoted from assistant coach to associate head coach, a step in the right direction for IU golf.

Ziedonis is an IU man, he played under Mayer from 2009-2013 and helped the Hoosiers reach NCAA Regional Championships in all four seasons. He returned to IU in 2016 as an assistant coach after short stints at Ball State and Virginia. 

This is a step in the right direction for IU. A younger, more relatable voice is what the team needs. We see this in college sports all the time: the younger, more relatable coach is brought in as the “head-coach-in-waiting” until the older coach is slowly pushed away. 

The promotion of Ziedonis to associate head coach could be a sign that administration is preparing for him to take over for Mayer in the future, something the team needs to return to relevance. 

Ziedonis's youth paves the way for more tech knowledge about the sport that Mayer might struggle with.

Specifically, the sport is moving toward a more technological style. TrackMan, a dual radar system that tracks all movements in the golf swing to help players correct their swings, is a program that has been implemented at IU.

As the game moves towards more technical aspects, Ziedonis is more fitting for the future of the game, something college coaches struggle with on a daily basis.

Promoting Ziedonis is the first step of a long process in using the youth on the roster, not only this season, but for years to come.

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