Men’s golf ready for exciting season


Junior men’s golfer Salvador Rocha hits a shot during the Mid-American Conference Championships April 28. The Huskies begin the season Monday.

By Tom Burton

The men’s golf team is ready to maximize the talent on their roster and become a top-100 program. 

This is the roster that has the ability to win the MAC Championship and even contend for a spot in the NCAA tournament, which was hosted at NIU’s home course of Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois last season.

The team had a strong finish to last season and they are ready to realize their full potential this year.

After finishing in the top-five in the Mid-American Conference Championship April 30, the team has a chance to end differently this season.

Head Coach Tom Porten recognizes the talent on this roster and the chance they have to be a talented team.

“I’m really pleased with the progress we’re making and the depth of the team,” Porten said. “I think it’s the deepest roster and the most talented group in the history of the program.”

Porten said he couldn’t speak about rosters the team had before he became head coach but noted this being the deepest roster he has coached.

The Huskies are getting a contributor to the lineup as redshirt senior Joo-Young Lee is returning from being red-shirted last season with a concussion.

In the 2015-16 season, the year before being red-shirted, Lee recorded a team-best 73.72 scoring average andwas named MAC player of the week twice.

Lee will rightfully re-assume his position in the No. 1 one slot in the lineup. Porten said the team is grateful to have him back and healthy after losing Charlie Cameron from a year ago.

“Obviously having [Joo-Young Lee] back is a nice addition to [the team],” Porten said.

The Huskies made talented additions to the team when they added Morehead State roommates in juniors Thomas DeMarco and Matt Cholod to the lineup.

Porten said DeMarco has asserted himself into the second spot in the lineup behind Lee. DeMarco led the team in scoring average in the spring season at 74.09.

Behind DeMarco is sophomore Jordan Less, who was the freshman standout in 2017 after seeing minimal action in the fall 2016 portion of last season.

“There’s a lot of good, experienced players pushing everyone forward,” Porten said. “While I think the top-three players settling [into their roles], it’s those other two spots where I think we can see some volatility in the lineup.”

The player who will likely be consistently that fourth spot will be junior Salvador Rocha, who posted a 74.69 scoring average last season.

The coaching staff complimented Rocha for his ‘tour-quality’ short game and sees him in the lineup moving forward.

“[Rocha] seems to always find his way into the lineup no matter what happens,” Assistant Coach Andrew Frame said.

Porten said Lee and Rocha have the best short game on the team, with Lee’s ball striking abilities being better than Rocha’s.

Rocha will be competing for his spot in the lineup at the fourth and fifth spots. With the talent on this roster, Roacha, Cholod, junior Paul Schlimm and sophomore Michael Mattas all can contend for the last spot.

Porten has a good problem on his hands with this talent.

Even with high aspirations for the season’s end, the team will have to continue progressing and developing consistency throughout the season to achieve what they hope to.

Along with Lee, DeMarco, Less and Rocha, Porten will go with Cholod in the fifth spot for their first event of the season.

“[Cholod] had a great training summer,” Porten said. “His golf swing has come full circle from [when he transferred] to where he is now. He can do more things with the golf ball the he has ever been able to do.”

The Huskies will play in the Inverness Intercollegiate Monday and Tuesday at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.