Day 1-leading Barry knows rivals stand in its way of the national championship
HERSHEY, Pa. -- A smile breaks across Jimmy Stobs’ face, and it’s a big one.
Barry University and Nova Southeastern University are maybe 20 miles apart in sunny South Florida, a golf haven if ever there was one. Nova Southeastern won the DII national championship last year, and for most of the current season, the two schools have traded the top spot in the rankings.
Surely, they’re rivals. That’s when the grin comes.
“Yeah, there’s a rivalry,” said Stobs, Barry's head coach. “They have a very good program, obviously. They won the championship last year, and we’ve been flipping back and forth with them the last two years being ranked number one.
“This year, they’ve beaten us more times than we’ve beaten them. Yeah, it’s been a good rivalry. I wouldn’t say it’s friendly, but we definitely respect each other tremendously.”
Throw Lynn University into the mix -- the Fighting Knights are located just to the north in Boca Raton -- and there’s three very talented DII men’s golf programs in one little very beautiful section of the country. That’s not to say, though, that Stobs can afford to concern himself with what Nova Southeastern or Lynn is doing at any given moment.
He can’t change what they do, so he just concentrates on what Barry does on the golf course and lets the shots fall where they may.
“I want my players just taking care of themselves,” Stobs said. “If we play our game [with players] one through five, I truly believe we are the best team in the country from top to bottom.
“We may not have the best player, but one through five, we have the lowest stroke average in the country. That tells you right there that we had the top five players as a team.”
It was hard to argue the point following Monday’s opening round of the NCAA tournament at the Hershey Country Club. Barry shot an even-par 284 to gain a six-stroke lead against second-place Lynn. And, just for the record, Nova Southeastern stood tied for fourth, another two strokes back.
“We had it to 8-under-par at one time and let it get away a little bit at the end,” Stobs said. “The golf course is very demanding off the tee and if you don’t get the ball in the fairway, you’re playing defense. You’re going to make some bogeys, and we made some bogeys.”
Nova Southeastern’s Ben Taylor is widely regarded as the best golfer in all of DII, but Stobs has a horse of his own in freshman Adam Svensson from Surrey Vancouver, British Columbia.
The young man was the 2010 Callaway World Junior champion and the 2012 PNGA Player of the Year. Without reservation, Stobs calls him the best recruit in Barry history.
“He’s the best recruit I’ve ever seen,” said Stobs, who led Barry to the 2007 DII golf national championship. “When I saw Adam win the junior world at Torrey Pines, he was by far the best prospect I ever saw. In terms of his swing, his ball-striking, his overall package, he’s the total package. Obviously, he’s young and not mature yet, but he’s solid.”
As precise as Svensson is in so many different areas of his game, it’s his ability to move on that impresses his coach the most. When he makes a rare bad shot, he moves on and doesn’t let it get in his head.
“The good thing about Adam is his short-term memory in terms of golf,” Stobs said. “He hits it, forgets it and moves on to the next shot. He has a lot of physical ability. He has a great golf swing. Fundamentally, he’s very sound. He hits the ball very straight, but he’s also very level-headed.
“He doesn’t get too emotional, high or low. He just goes about his business. The thing that I preach to my team is not to get too high emotionally and not too low, because this game is like a roller coaster if you allow it to be. He’s a steady Eddie right across the board.”
At other schools, upperclassmen might resent hearing such high praise for a freshman. That hasn’t been the case at Barry.
“I think it’s elevated their games,” Stobs said. “They saw someone come onto the team in January that was better than they were. He’s made them work harder.
“They don’t want to get their brains beat in by 10 shots every round, so the whole team has been elevated because of Adam. They’re all hard workers, but having someone come in to shoot low numbers on a consistent basis has helped everybody.”
Stobs didn’t just come to watch his kids play a few rounds of golf and then head back home. They’re in it to win it.
“We always come here to win,” he concluded. “There’s no other thing to say. We know that we have to take care of our own selves. If we play our own game, stay away from silly mistakes and stay away from the big numbers -- three putts and bogeys on par-5s -- we’ll be fine. We’ll be right there at the end. We’ll see what happens. [Monday] was a good day, and [Tuesday], we’ll just try to improve.”