Emilio Cuartero and the Tigers are back in action next week.
Feb. 20, 2014
By Michelle Hantak
Columbia, Mo.- Mizzou Men's Golf kicks off the 2014 spring season with a trip to Rio Grande, P.R., where the Tigers will participate in the Puerto Rico Classic. The tournament, played at Rio Mar Golf Course, runs from Feb. 23-25. The Tigers will be looking to start the spring on a high note as they begin the journey toward postseason play.
The tournament is hosted by Purdue and includes a talented field of 15 teams. Five of the teams competing are currently in Golfstat's Top 10 including No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia Tech, No. 7 Georgia, No. 9 Virginia Tech and No. 10 Oklahoma. Other teams competing include Southern Methodist University, Northwestern, Purdue, Clemson, North Carolina, UNC Greensboro, East Tennessee State, North Carolina State and Michigan. The Tigers will be competing on the 6,945 yard, par 72 River Course, designed by Greg Norman. The course runs along the Mameyes River and boasts views of the mountains, sea and foliage native to Puerto Rico.
After taking a few months off, the team returned to their full practice schedule in late January. Head Coach Mark Leroux believes the new Walsworth Family Golf Center has been a game changer in the team's preparation for spring play.
"The facility has made a huge difference," Leroux said. "We have been able to hit range balls, putt and play golf holes on our simulator. We also have video of full swing and putting that was not available before."
A mix of old and new faces will be competing for the Tigers on their first trip of 2014. Starting for Mizzou this tournament are Emilio Cuartero, Hunter Kraus, Euan Walker, Linus Lilliedahl and Wilson Sundvold. Ryan Zech will be making the trip as an individual competitor.
Senior Cuartero was the top Tiger golfer in the fall as he led the team in scoring in four-of-five events. The Spaniard led the team with a stroke average of 70.8 and didn't finish below the Top 25 in a tournament this fall. He won the Columbia Regional Preview, finished third at the Turning Stone Tournament and tied for sixth in the Wendy's Kiawah Classic to close out the fall season.
Kraus will shoot second for Mizzou. The Tennessee native got off to a bit of a rough start in the fall, but improved as the season progressed. Kraus' top finish of the fall was at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate where he shot 2-under-par. Leroux has high hopes for Kraus this upcoming spring and believes that he has the ability to keep the team on track.
"Hunter is a key player for us," Leroux said. "If he plays well so does the team."
Walker will be looking to build on an outstanding fall season. The freshman competed in every fall event for the Tigers. He is second on the team in stroke average and ended the fall with two Top 10 finishes, a tie for ninth at the Turning Stone Tournament and a tie for second at the Columbia Regional Preview.
Lilliedahl, a spring 2014 addition to the team, will be making his first appearance for the Tigers on the course. The Swede has been one of the top junior players in Sweden over the past three years and earned a spot on the Swedish Junior National Team last year. Lilliedahl played very well during the team's qualifying events to earn a spot in the starting rotation.
Sundvold rounds out the starters for Mizzou. The redshirt sophomore participated in four events during the fall season, with his top finish, a tie for seventh, coming at the season-opening Turning Stone Tournament. The Columbia, Mo., native worked hard during the offseason to improve his game and could be a crucial factor in the Tigers success this spring.
Also, traveling with the team to Puerto Rico is Zech. The junior started the fall season off with a bang, finishing second at Turning Stone and continued to show progress at the Columbia Regional Preview where he took 14th. Zech will be competing as an individual at the Puerto Rico Classic, giving him an opportunity to find his stroke and prepare for the remainder of the spring season.
The 54-hole tournament will begin with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. ET Sunday. Eighteen holes will be played each day and live scoring can be found at www.golfstat.com.
For tournament updates and more information on Mizzou Golf, follow mutigers.com and @MizzouMensGolf.
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