The Youngstown State men's golf team will take an experienced lineup, led by seniors Brandon Pluchinsky, Bill Gaffney and D.J. Holub into action on Friday when the Horizon League Championships begin at the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-In-The-Hills, Fla.
The other two members of YSU's conference lineup are junior Steven Sveda and redshirt freshman Jason McQuown. Combined the top four in the lineup have played in 10 Horizon League tournaments with 30 rounds of experience.
The three seniors all rank in top 15 in the Horizon League standings entering the conference tournament. Pluchinsky leads the league with a stroke average of 72.2. Holub ranks 14th with an average of 74.7 per round while Gaffney is 15th at 74.8. The trio has played in a total of 90 rounds this season.
At last year's Horizon League event, Pluchinsky finished fifth, Gaffney was ninth, Holub placed 21st and Sveda was 31st in his tournament debut. The Penguins placed fifth out of seven teams as Northern Kentucky makes its first HL tournament appearance this year.
Pluchinsky, who is the favorite for league player of the year, has had an impressive senior campaign. He is averaging a team and league-best 72.2 strokes per round playing in all 11 tournaments and 30 rounds. He has had six top-10 finishes for the season, including taking medalist honors at the Cleveland State Invitational in the fall. Pluchinsky has been YSU's top finisher in seven of the 11 tournaments as well. In his three conference tournament appearances, he placed fifth (junior), seventh (sophomore) and 11th (freshman).
Holub is second on the squad averaging 74.7 strokes per round and has two top-10 finishes this season, both of which came in the fall. In his previous three trips to the HL Championships he was 21st (junior), 17th (sophomore) and 11th (freshman).
Gaffney has been the low scorer in a pair of events for YSU this year and is third on the team in strokes per round average. He had his best Horizon League finish last year placing ninth. In his other two Horizon League Championship appearances, he finished 20th (freshman) and 22nd (sophomore).
Sveda has appeared in the final three tournaments for the Guins while McQuown has played in all six this spring. Sveda averages 75.8 strokes per round while McQuown has an average of 77.0. Sveda ranks 25th in the Horizon League while McQuown is 38th.
This year's meet will be a highly-contested one. The top seven teams in the tournament are separated by five strokes per round while just a stroke-and-a-half is the difference between the top four. The Penguins are second among the teams entering the meet trailing only Cleveland State.
A good opening round will help the Penguins remain in contention. After the first round in 2015, the Penguins were 17 shots behind eventual champion Cleveland State. YSU responded with a solid second round but were still 16 shots off the pace and 14 out of second. CSU ran away with the title and ended up winning the tournament by 10 shots and was 18 ahead of the Guins. Oakland was the wire-to-wire second-place team overcoming a 317 in the final round to earn the runner-up trophy.
The best finish by the program was in 2006 when the Penguins were second. YSU has placed third in 2014, 2011, 2010 and 2008.
The NCAA Regionals are May 16-18 at six sites. Hosting cities for the regionals are Tuscaloosa, Ala., Marana, Ariz., Kohler, Wisc., Albuquerque, N.M., Stillwater, Okla., and Franklin, Tenn. The NCAA Championships are May 27-June 1 in Eugene, Oregon.
Round One Tee Times
9:10 a.m. | Jason McQuown
9:20 a.m. | Steven Sveda
9:30 a.m. | D.J. Holub
9:40 a.m. | Bill Gaffney
9:50 a.m. | Brandon Pluchinsky