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Maryland men’s golf aims to improve on a slow start to life in the Big Ten

State of the Program focuses on a team looking for its first NCAA Championships appearance since 2007.

Maryland men’s golf Evan Santa
Evan Santa
@GoTerpsGolf on Twitter

The Maryland sports offseason is here, and it was a wild year for Terrapin athletics. There were national championships in men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, and a trip to the title game in field hockey. Maryland athletes won some of the highest honors in their sports. But there were also some lows, both on and off the field.

This summer, we’ve been taking an in-depth look at each of Maryland’s varsity programs, exploring where they’ve been and where they’re going. We’ve hit eight sports so far, and now it’s time to reach the halfway point with a focus on men’s golf, one of several teams looking to find more consistent success in the near future.

Maryland men’s golf

Established: 1954
Best seasons: 1958 (4th at NCAAs); 1963 (ACC champions); 1976 (ACC runner-up; 9th at NCAAs)
Last 5 years: 1 team win, 2 individual wins, 6 individual NCAA appearances (4 by David Kocher)
2018-19: 1 team runner-up; 1 individual runner-up; 9th at Big Ten tournament
The coach: Jason Rodenhaver (entering ninth season)

Where it’s been

In a two-season sport, schools in warmer climates will always be at an advantage, but Maryland has had its moments over the years. The Terps were a regular ACC contender in the 1960s and 1970s, then fell off for a couple decades. Since the NCAA added a regional stage, the team has made eight appearances, but none since 2007.

Maryland’s first star golfer was Deane Beman, a two-time All-American (1959, 1960) and two-time U.S. Amateur champion (1960, 1963) who went on to win four times on the PGA TOUR and later served as the TOUR’s commissioner from 1974-94. Fred Funk is the most prolific professional to come through College Park, winning eight times on the PGA TOUR and nine times on the Champions Tour for players 50 and older. The Terps haven’t had an All-American since 1994, though, and Funk is still the most recent professional winner from the program.

The Big Ten isn’t a dominant golf conference — Illinois is the only program consistently gunning for national titles. But Maryland hasn’t quite been able to establish itself in the new league. The Terps did finish second at the Big Ten Match Play this spring, but in the stroke-play Big Ten tournament, the Terps have placed third, eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th.

Where it’s going

In college golf, consistency is the difference between posting a few solid results during a season and putting together an NCAA Tournament resume. And Maryland hasn’t been able to find it in these last few years. Last year’s team, for instance, had a runner-up and a third-place finish, but also had three consecutive 13th-place showings in 14-team fields during the spring.

There’s a bigger-picture question mark revolving around the uncertain future of the university golf course. A new proposal to repurpose some of the course’s land gained attention last year, and while it’s still several steps away from turning into action, it’s easy to worry about the potential ramifications of losing an on-campus home.

Programs also consistently get a boost when one of their alumni makes it big on the professional level — head coach Jason Rodenhaver couldn’t stress that enough when we talked a few years back — and in David Kocher, the Terps have their best shot in a generation. The four-year NCAA regional participant graduated in 2018 and has spent this year on the PGA TOUR Series-China, where he leads the order of merit. If he finishes No. 1 there, he’s fully exempt on the Korn Ferry Tour next season, where he’ll be one step away from the PGA TOUR.

Names to know

Rising senior Peter Knade will look to ride the momentum from a career year into 2019-20. Knade posted a 72.13 scoring average in 24 rounds last season and recorded four top-10s, including a tie for second at the Ohio State-hosted Robert Kepler Intercollegiate and a ninth-place finish at the Big Ten championships. He was a second-team all-conference honoree at the end of the season.

Maryland graduated senior Timothy Colanta this spring, but returns most of its predominant starters during the season. Rising senior Christian Park played all 24 possible rounds in 2018-19, while rising sophomore Dillon Brown played 22 and rising redshirt senior Evan Santa played 17. The Terps also bring in a four-man recruiting class — Austin Barbin, Will Celiberti, Thomas Eubanks and John Updike — that hopes to highlight the next generation.

The mission

This is a program that’s been aiming to take the next level for several years, but has been stuck in neutral for a while. The Terps have plenty of individual talent coming back, and if they can perform more consistently, a return to the NCAA Championships after a 13-year drought is within reach. It’d be a strong step in the right direction.