One of the great debates in sports is where does success lie: a core of veterans with a few rookies sprinkled in, or a team of rookies led by just a handful of seasoned vets.
Benedictine University, a brand-new program in Mesa, is putting the bet on the latter strategy for its men’s golf program by signing local products Ryan Witte, Justin Hyden, and Ben Potter when the team opens up play this fall.
“Anytime you build something from scratch, there’s a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement,” said head coach Steve Schafer. “Because we’re transitioning into membership, it’s about building our culture, it’s about setting expectations, and it’s about improving.”
The three golfers have shown they can play winning golf, whether it was at Desert Vista for Witte or Mountain Pointe for Potter and Hyden, before the trio helped Mesa Community College to a second-place finish at junior college nationals during the spring season.
“When I recruit kids, I look for three things: I look for great character kids, great students and then good golfers in that order,” Schafer said. “It’s more them as people that make great fits for us.
“These three provide experience, and anytime you’re building a program, it’s vital to get some experienced athletes. Everyone else in our program will be freshmen, so I’ll be leaning on these three to set the example and lead our program.”
Benedictine will have golf, cross country, volleyball and tennis to start its first year and the sports will be considered club teams while seeking membership in multiple national organizations and conferences. Eventually, the sports programs is expected to add men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball and baseball for the 2015-16 school year.
For now, three local players will get a chance to help set the foundation as Witte, Hyden, and Potter are excited to be a part of the first recruiting class, and they were ready to take on the leadership Schafer expects from them.
“It’s going to be great,” said Witte, who averaged 73.87 in 22 competitive rounds last season. “I think the chemistry we had at Mesa came from all three of us being such good friends, and it’s going to transfer over to Benedictine. I don’t think there’s going to be any pressure as a leader.
“I took on a leadership role at Mesa, so it’ll just be more of the same.”
For Hyden and Potter, keeping the chemistry is second nature at this point, and adding the leadership is just another dynamic for the pair to add to their repertoire.
“I had opportunities to go play out of state, but I wanted to stay here and play with my friends,” said Hyden, who averaged 75.05 in 21 rounds. “Ben Potter and I have been playing together for nine years, and nothing beats being able to play with your best friend every day.”
Hyden said teamwork is the most important part for him and he’ll be there to make sure the freshman players feel comfortable on the team.
Potter, who averaged 75.0 in 19 rounds, echoed Hyden’s sentiment on playing with his friends, adding he was looking forward to continuing his career with Hyden.
“We’re all really excited to just build the foundation from the ground up and be a part of the team at Benedictine,” said Potter. “I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure. We just get a chance to develop our teammates and we look forward to that.”
All three golfers have high hopes for the season, expecting it to be a winning one.
“You always have to expect to win it all, just take it one day at a time though,” said Hyden.
• Will Argeros is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.