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New players help men’s golf team to strong season start

John Zbaracki ‘20, captain of the men’s golf team, is optimistic that his new teammates can contribute greatly to their future success.
John Zbaracki ‘20, captain of the men’s golf team, is optimistic that his new teammates can contribute greatly to their future success.

By Candace Mettle

As the Men’s Golf team rebuilds, they have started this season’s campaign in good form, with strong showings in their first few invites. Each game played by the Pioneers team members earned better scores, setting up some new players for an impressive start to their careers and older players demonstrating the growth of their skills.

Sam Naik ‘21, a new addition to the team, and John Zbaracki ‘20, team captain and member of the men’s golf team since his first year at the College, both had leading scores. At last Friday’s Wartburg Invitational at Prairie Links Golf Club, Zbaracki achieved his current season best score of 86, and Naik had the leading Pioneer score of 79. The Pioneers team had only a five and seven points difference from, respectively, Monmouth and St. Norbert, two notably strong men’s golf teams.

“I think another thing that has helped is that we really focused on earlier in the season trying to be a little bit better every single day. … We try to tell our guys [that] if you come back tomorrow, just be one stroke better,” said head men’s golf coach Brian Jaworski, who is also the head men’s soccer coach.

“We’re really playing together as a team, … a lot of friendly competition between the guys, I think that’s a lot of the reason why we’re playing better as a team together,” said Zbaracki.

This season’s team is a departure from last year’s, in which the golf team consisted of just three players. Evan Bunis ‘18 primarily led the team and won third place at last year’s Midwest Conference Championships with a total score of 226, averaging around 74 points per round. The team also added an assistant coach, John Shawver, who earned PGA Professional of the Year last year.

Even with new players who had never played Division III golf prior to this season, the team has functioned well. Jaworski said he attributes the team’s quick improvements to how committed the players are to becoming better. The players, both new and old, could not have improved their score with almost every single game without putting in effort on and off the field to build a cohesive team.

“Last year was last year, and it’s a lot better to look out the front windshield than it is the rear-view window,” Jaworski added. “This year’s team is doing a great job on their journey of becoming a team. I think that maybe the reason why they’re even excelling at this part of it is because we didn’t have the opportunity last year. Our guys should be given a lot of credit for being so good — when you think about it, we didn’t have enough to be a team.”

For the rest of the season, the team hopes to continue its trajectory of having a strong team and incremental progress. Jaworski said that Zbaracki has risen to the occasion as team captain. Aside from already have a penchant for facilitating a welcoming and encouraging environment for the team, his recent games show that he can also lead the team on scoring.

On his coach’s praise, Zbaracki said, “I really hope to build up a team environment and having some competition between the guys, having us play together not just at practice but other times during the day and week helping each other out and being together as a team because when you’re playing an individual sport it can be harder to find that motivation and so having the other guys to push your forward is a big thing and hoping to encourage that, encourage the competition and encouraging us to be better.”

Jaworski recruited Naik, who plays soccer at the College, after hearing that he played in high school briefly. Naik said that he has had a great time on the team and realized how much he missed playing golf, and thus plans to continue for the remainder of his time at the College and hopes to see the team continue to improve.

“If we’re all playing well, for sure we can compete and it’s just if we can do that consistently, and if we can all be doing that at the same time,” said Naik. “You’re going to have off days when you’re not hitting the ball as well as you want to be but if you can get to the point where you’re putting up similar scores even when you’re not playing well, I think that’s how we can work on our consistency. That’s a big goal for us.”

The team plays at the Grinnell College Golf Course tomorrow at 10 a.m. against Central College. Jaworski said he has high hopes for the game and for the rest of the season.

“I think this is a team that’s going to surprise people,” Jaworski said.

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