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Virginia Tech Men Making Meteoric Rise
Hokies Go From Nowhere To Top-20 Program
January 22, 2001

By Lance Ringler, Golfweek.com Assistant Editor

The 1998-99 college golf season was only two years ago, but, for Virginia Tech coach Jay Hardwick it seems like light years.

Tech coach Jay Hardwick is enjoying his team's recent success. During that not-so-long ago season, the Hokies placed last in four of their 12 events and recorded only one top-10 finish. They ended the year ranked 162nd in the Golfweek/Sagarin Collegiate Team Rankings before improving to No. 73 last season.

Oh, what a difference a year or two makes.

Virginia Tech rolled through the 2000-01 fall season with three wins and three runner-up finishes in six events. And the Hokies are ranked 15th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Collegiate Rankings - an improvement of 147 spots from two seasons ago.

"This is my most enjoyable year of coaching," said Hardwick, who is in his 18th season. "We have an extremely close group of kids from top to bottom, and that's what makes it fun"

And winning never hurts. The Hokies three wins are already a school-record for a single season, and they have the spring season to add to that total.

Leading the way is sophomore Brendon de Jonge (pronounced de-YUNG). De Jonge is ranked 23rd nationally and has also improved greatly from a year ago when he was No. 352. One reason may be some valuable experience he gained last summer.

Brendon de Jonge was the first Virginia Tech player to win twice in one season. After winning the 1999 Zimbabwe National Amateur Championship by a record 14 shots, he earned his country's top ranking as an amateur. The honor gave him a spot on the 2000 World Amateur Team.

His Zimbabwe team tied for 24th in the 59-team field won by the United States in Bad Saarow, Germany, and de Jonge tied for 20th in the individual standings. Hardwick singles out his play in the World Team Amateur as a big reason for his improved play this year.

"Playing as well as he did in that type of event, with the world's best amateurs, let him know he could win," said Hardwick.

Win is exactly what he did once he returned to college golf. He became the first Hokie to win two tournaments in one season when he won back-to-back titles at the NCAA East Regional Preview and the ODU/SeaScape Collegiate. His 72.1 scoring average in the fall is the lowest in school history, and his career scoring average of 73.8 is currently the all-time best.

"As a freshmen he pushed, but in the last year he has developed into one of the most mature players I have ever seen from the standpoint of not showing his strength all the time," said Hardwick.

Hardwick noted that length off the tee is one of his strengths and when he won the NCAA East Regional Preview he hit his driver five times. De Jonge agrees with his coach.

"It was great just to watch some of those guys play and the way they managed it around the course," said de Jonge of his experience in the event. "Playing in my second year here, it just makes you more comfortable and you know what to expect."

Along with de Jonge, junior captain Brian Krusoe has been a key ingredient to the Hokies' success. Krusoe has five top-10 finishes in six tournaments, including three top-five performances. The junior from Northfield, Ohio, is averaging 72.68 and has made a big jump in his national ranking. He ranks 62nd in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings - last year he finished at No. 436.

"Being the captain has been a big asset for Brian," said Hardwick. "He has had to be role model and a leader and has done a very good job."

The improvement Virginia Tech has enjoyed may also be directly related to the success of a support group for golf know as the Hackin' Hokies. With their help and the efforts of Hardwick, they have endowed 15 scholarships. These scholarships will allow golfers to continue playing for years to come.

The administration has helped by allowing a bigger team size. What used to be just seven or eight players a few years ago is now up to 11 players.

"Being able to have more bodies as been a big positive," said Hardwick. "It helps everyone know there is someone pushing you to get better."

The Hokies return to action this spring when they tee it up at the Matlock Invitational March 5-6 in Lakeland, Fla.

Reprinted with permission.

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