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Watney provides stability in 34 seasons at Fresno State


Fresno State has a lot of new faces, but head coach Mike
Watney still has some veterans that know the Bulldog way.
Matt Weir / Collegian File Photo

In his 34th season as the Fresno State men’s golf coach, Mike Watney’s goal remains the same as it has been every season since his first in 1979: finish atop the conference and earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Golf is different than most sports because there aren’t many opportunities for the ‘Dogs to play other Western Athletic Conference teams, so Fresno State must wait until the end-of-the-year tournament if it’s to qualify to play. For Watney, a new season brings about some new expectations and he gave some thoughts on his.

“I think we’re going to win the conference every year,” Watney said. “It’s not like other sports where you play every team twice every year. In golf there’s just one tournament at the end of the season so you better be playing really well.”

And for the ‘Dogs, the time until May is on their side, as Watney said his ‘Dogs are not off to the fastest start.

The ‘Dogs have welcomed six new faces to this year’s squad. Among those is junior Rufie Fessler, who transferred from Bakersfield College where he earned all-conference honors in back-to-back years with the Renegades. Freshmen Macgregor Hoobery, Troy Sweeney, Anibal Kim and junior college transfers Jack Mulroy and Johnny Partridge round out the rest of the newcomers.

Although there are many new faces, there are still some veterans back for this season. One is senior Brian Sunker, who is enjoying the mix of veterans and rookies on the team.

“At the beginning of the year we didn’t know many people,” Sunker said. “But we all get along really well now. The team chemistry is really good and that transforms into the golf game. Although golf isn’t a team sport, it helps to have that support and the teammates that care about your golf game too.”

Sunker has already made his presence felt this season. He dominated the field in the Outlaw Cup, winning by 15 strokes. He shot 68’s on the first two days and carded a 67 on the final day.

Watney has reason to be confident with his returning players, but he knows that the new players are going to need to step up their play as the season picks up.

“I feel that once a player gets into eight-to-10 tournaments he gets pretty comfortable,” Watney said. “I feel like we’re going through that a little bit and I think we’re going to be better this year than last year.”

But that won’t come easy for the ‘Dogs as their WAC opponents are off to good starts. Among those is nationally ranked No. 25 San Jose State, who has won its past three consecutive tournaments. One of the tournaments was the Wolf Pack Classic where the ‘Dogs finished in 11th place. Now, Fresno State heads into tomorrow’s Alister MacKenzie Invitational in Fairfax, Calif. with the opportunity to beat the Spartans.

Competition will be fierce for the ‘Dogs and Watney is confident his team will be right there with San Jose State when the squads clash again on the course.

“We want to win the WAC and go to the NCAA Tournament, but with a very slow start we definitely have work to do” Watney said.