Gonzaga men's golf swings into season with high expectations

Gonzaga senior Chris Mogg competes in the WCC championships.

Gonzaga men’s golf is in it to win it this spring.

After a rocky fall season with their best rank of ninth out of 15 teams at the Oregon State Invitational in October and having never won a tournament or qualified for regionals, this group of Zags is ready for a new season.

“The fall – we didn’t do our best. I don’t think as well as we wanted to,” said Redshirt junior, Matthew Ruel.

Individually, Ruel performed his best last fall out of any other college season that he’s played. In the Nick Watney Invitational last September, he ranked 21st out of 91 players and in the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic in November, he ranked 25th out of 119 players. Of course, one of his goals is to win a tournament as an individual, but Ruel is more focused on improving as a team so that they can all enjoy the win.

“I’m a big team player,” Ruel said. “I love watching my teammates succeed.”

Though the fall season only held four tournaments, the spring season gives the men six chances to achieve that goal of winning a tournament.

Like most other sports teams at Gonzaga, the golf team has depth, so achieving that goal is probable. There are no singular star players. All ten of them could easily be one of the five who qualify to compete in the next tournament and help lead their team to a WCC Championship.

“We have enough talent to go out there and win … and at least be competitive,” Ruel said. “You know you can’t win everything every time, but if you’re being competitive, you’re at least showing that you’re competing with other teams and you’re vying for that top spot.”

At the moment, Gonzaga is nationally ranked 165th out of 295 schools. They’re basically right in the middle of the pack. Though they are not the best, they are most definitely not the worst, but they do have some room for improvement as they prepare for the spring season.

“I expect us to go into every day with a much more competitive attitude,” said Junior Charlie Magruder. “In the fall we were a little bit more timid.”

Magruder placed 41st out of 119 in the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic. Despite this applaudable rank, he hopes that he and the team will see major improvements this spring so that they can play in the WCC Championship, which is being held in his hometown of Las Vegas this year.

Part of their struggles with the fall season was Spokane’s preposterous weather. With the snow, rain and ice, the team was forced to practice at their indoor facility for a large part of the season, which is much different from playing on an actual course. Fortunately, much better weather is predicted for the spring.

On their journey toward a tournament win and regional qualification, the guys on the team support each other and ensure that everyone in their small family is in a positive mood. Since there are only 10 guys on the entire team, their bond is strong.

“We’re lucky because we’re such a close group of friends that you know we don’t really have to try to be a team,” Magruder said. “It just kind of happens naturally.”

Not only do they have fun travelling together for tournaments, but they spend time with each other away from the sport as well. They all hang out at someone’s house or go play basketball or watch any sports games that are on TV, but they can also talk about anything if one of them is having a bad day and needs some advice or a pep talk.

“They’re all probably my closest friends,” Ruel said. “That’s how well we get along together as a team, which is awesome.”

Golf is a special sport. Some people see it as an individual game, but Gonzaga is all about the teamwork. They crave success.

“It’s just putting in the hard work, believing in ourselves,” Ruel said. “If we do that, I think it’s possible that we could go out there and win a few times and potentially make a run for regionals.”

It’s tough to support the team because they rarely play at home, but just keeping up with their record and rooting them on while they’re away is an option. This spring could be a breakthrough for GU's men’s golf, and you shouldn’t miss it.

“I’m more than excited to see our progress and just show that you know the hard work does in fact pay off,” Ruel said.

Their first tournament for the spring season is in California on February 24 and 25.

Samantha DiMaio is a staff writer.

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