KINGSTON, R.I. - The Rhode Island golf team will open its 2018-19 season this weekend at The Doc Gimmler, hosted by St. John's. The 54-hole tournament will be played at the Bethpage Red Course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Led by All-New England, All-Northeast Region and Atlantic 10 All-Conference performer Dawson Jones, as well as 2018 New England Rookie of the Year Chris Francoeur, the Rams return a wealth of experience as they had no seniors on the 2017-18 roster.
"We come into the season with a pretty clear idea of who our top four players are," head coach Gregg Burke said. "Chris had an outstanding summer and led us in virtually every category. And Dawson played extremely well in what was easily the toughest schedule anyone on the team took on."
With Jones entering The Doc Gimmler as Rhody's #1, Francoeur will be the Rams' #2 with freshman Austin Fox slotting in at #3. Redshirt senior Brody King - who was runner up at last year's Atlantic 10 Championship - will tee off as URI's #4, while redshirt junior Jason Short will be the Rams' fifth competitor this weekend.
"Austin was a combination of Chris and Dawson this summer," Burke said. "He played extremely well, and played in a couple major tournaments on golf courses that have hosted US Opens and PGA events. Brody continued his solid play throughout the summer and Jason and Burke [Barsamian] are two additional experienced players who can get great scores for us."
The Rams will be put to the test early on as they seek to reclaim the team title at the Doc Gimmler, an event URI won in the fall of 2016. Rhody will next compete Sept. 17-18 at the Hartford Hawks Invitational.
"As we have for the past three years, we will begin by playing at Bethpage and then go to Hartford," Burke said. "We love competing on both of these golf courses and they are a fun way to start the season."
From there, it's a quick turnaround as the Rams head to Laurel Hill Golf Club (Lorton, Va.) for George Mason's Patriot Intercollegiate, Sept. 22-23.
"We will play for a third time in as many weeks when we travel to George Mason's tournament in Virginia," Burke said. "This provides us with an excellent opportunity to play out of region. We will then finish the fall with our favorite trip of the year - to Georgetown.
This season will mark the fourth in a row that the Rams travel The Member Club at Four Streams (Beallsville, Md.), for the Georgetown Intercollegiate, Oct. 15-16.
Rhody will open the spring season at the Palmetto Invitational in Aiken, S.C. (March 11-12). The Rams will then compete at the Cape Fear National Intercollegiate (March 17-18) in Leland, N.C.
"We have really changed our spring schedule this year," Burke said. "First, we play at South Carolina Aiken, which will have the toughest field of the year for us. After that, we'll take five days of spring training before we play in the Cape Fear National Intercollegiate. We love that golf course and the field there will be terrific."
The Rams will travel further south to close out the month of March, heading to Boca Raton, Fla. for the FAU Spring Championship at Osprey Point Golf Club (March 29-31).
From there, URI will visit White Manor Country Club (Malvern, Pa.) for the Villanova Wildcat Invitational. Last year at that tournament Jones (t-4th) and Francoeur (t-14th) both turned in top-15 finishes with Short and King tied for 16th overall.
The Rams will then return to Quidnessett Country Club to host the annual Rhode Island Invitational (April 15-16) before traveling back to Florida for the Atlantic 10 Championship at Grand Cypress Golf Club (April 26-28). Rhody placed third at last year's conference tournament, the program's best finish at A-10s since 2008.
"Last year, we played we played five tournaments in the Northeast, three in the Mid-Atlantic and one in Florida," Burke said. "This year, we've got three in the Northeast, three in the Mid-Atlantic, one in North Carolina, one in South Carolina and two in Florida.
"We will have to work very hard to be ready. That being said, we are excited to play the best and toughest schedule this program has had in a very long time."