The Hope College men's golf team will be bidding to regain the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championship and a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
A measure of their ability to pursue these goals will be determined Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5-6 when the Flying Dutchmen compete in a season-opening non-league tournament hosted by Olivet College. Many of the Great Laakes region's top teams will be competing at the Bedford Valley Course. It will be the only competition before league play begins Tuesday, Sept. 9 in a tournament to be hosted by Albion.
Hope's bid for a fourth consecutive title last fall was stymied by rival Olivet. After winning the conference championship just twice in their first 50 years of competition, the Flying Dutchmen have won seven titles since 1986. During that span of 17 years, the league champion has been either Hope or Olivet every year but one.
The Flying Dutchmen are coached by Robert Ebels who begins his 13th season. He has coached the league medalist six times and advanced players to the NCAA championships four times.
The pre-season roster includes five returning letterwinners and three freshman prospects. The only senior is Jeff Melville of Grandville, Mich. (Jenison HS) who will be captain of the team for a second consecutive year. Other returning letterwinners include sophomore Alden Hoksbergen of Holland, Mich. (West Ottawa HS), junior Ryan Shedd of Coldwater, Mich. (Coldwater HS), junior Justin Spyker of Portage, Mich. (Portage Central HS) and junior Cody Taylor of Greenville, Mich. (Greenville HS).
Spyker won MIAA Medalist honors last fall in one of the closest finishes in league history. He entered the season-ending conference tournament in second place in the player standings, needing to finish what appeared to be an insurmountable seven strokes better than the league leader. Playing on Hope's home course, he accomplished the fete, It marked the fifth consecutive year that a Hope golfer has been the MIAA medalist. His season average of 75.3 was the third best for a season in Hope men's golf history.
Shedd achieved All-MIAA honors as both a freshman and sophomore. He was a first-team honor in 2001 averaging 78.1 strokes per 18-hole round. He averaged 78.4 last fall to finished 11th overall for All-MIAA second team recognition.
Hoksbergen marked his first collegiate season by finishing ninth in the league standings (78.1) for All-MIAA second team honors. Melville and Taylor were All-MIAA second team honorees in 2001, finishing eighth (81.1) and ninth (81.3) respectively in conference tournaments.
Four of Hope's returning players captured medalist honors in a tournament last year (fall and spring). Jeff Melville was a tournament medalist twice while Ryan Shedd, Alden Hoksbergen and Justin Spyker each led the field once.
Freshman prospects include Nate Golomb of Schoolcraft, Mich. (Schoolcraft HS), Ryan Otto of St. Joseph, Mich. (Lake Michigan Catholic HS), and Aaron Peacock of Dearborn, Mich. (Divine Child HS).
The Flying Dutchmen will play in 11 fall tournaments highlighted by the home conference meet on Monday, Sept. 22, at the Wuskowhan Players Club. The Flying Dutchmen also play a spring schedule. The conference season should be very competitive. Nine of the league's top 13 golfers in 2002 were underclassmen. A year ago there was a different medalist in each of the seven league tournaments.