It has been more than a decade since the South Dakota State men’s and women’s golf teams have had a new coach. Does a new coach, new season, new expectations for Jackrabbit golf? You betcha.
The 2014-15 versions of the men’s and women’s golf programs have first-year director of golf Casey VanDamme at the helm, a head coach considered by many as one of the world’s premier instructors and one of the brightest up-and-coming coaches in the country. In VanDamme, the Jacks have a coach who is going to raise the their level of play and push for a pair of Summit League titles this season.
The SDSU men’s squad welcomes six letterwinners and three freshmen, including the Jacks’ top returner in sophomore Grant Smith, who had five top-20 finishes and placed 12th at his first Summit League Championship. The Des Moines, Iowa, native, posted a 75.19 scoring average, good for 13th in The Summit League. Smith also shot a season-low 66 in the third round of the Jackrabbit Fall Invitational and had 12 rounds below par.
Junior Dylan Baker (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and sophomore Trevor Tobin (Brandon) each played key roles in SDSU’s come-from-behind third-place finish at the league championship. Baker, who posted a 77.07 scoring average, shot a 78 in the first round, was injured during the second round, but came back in the third to shoot a 73 in Texas. On the season, Baker had his best outing when he tied for eighth at the Beu/Mussantto Invitational in Macomb, Ill., shooting a third-round 228.
Tobin came on strong at the end, shooting a season-low 73 in the third round of The Summit League Championship to finish tied for 23rd. His best three-round score of 232 came at the ASU Red Wolf Intercollegiate.
Sophomore Ian Rinken (Sioux Falls) played 19 rounds in seven events and finished with a 78.95 scoring average while junior Austin Sitter (Sioux Falls) saw action in six events and posted a 79 scoring average.
Joining the team this past spring, sophomore Guillermo Gonzalez (Merida, Yucatan) played in three tournaments, shooting a season-low 76 in the Beu/Mussantto Invitational.
New faces on the Jackrabbit team are freshmen Zach Sackett (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Michael Duch (Aberdeen) and Naqiuddin Fuad (Perak, Malaysia).
Currently ranked No. 1 in Manitoba by the National Junior Golf Scoreboard, Sackett ranked 26th on the Canadian Junior National Order of Merit. In tournament play this past year, he placed second at the CN Future Links Western Championships, third at the Maple Leaf Junior Tour Tournament of Champions and tied for fourth at the 2013 Manitoba Junior Boys Championship, shooting a 76.
Duch comes to South Dakota State after winning the 2013 South Dakota Class A state title. He was also a two-time Region 1A champion and the 2013 Northeast Conference champion. Additionally, Duch is a three-time all-state selection.
Fuad also brings an impressive list of accomplishments. In 2013, he was the Etiqa Selangor International Junior Masters Champion, and in 2012 Fuad was the Asian Pacific Junior Am Champion, runner-up at Malaysian Junior Open and runner-up at U.S. Kids World Junior - Under-21 Boys Division.