With the fall semester in full swing, Jackrabbit sports are underway as well. The SDSU men’s golf team plans to host the first-ever Jackrabbit golf tournament at the Prairie Club in Valentine, Neb., on the weekend of Sept. 26. The course, rated the second-best course in Nebraska, is rated as one of the top-100 public courses in the U.S. by Golf Digest.
“We are really excited to host this event,” said Head Coach Casey VanDamme. “It’s going to be a pretty cool atmosphere for all of the student-athletes there.”
The tournament should see a good amount of competition as teams such as Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Creighton, East Carolina, McNeese State, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon and Texas A&M will all be there. The No. 1 team in the country, Arizona State University, will also be in attendance and should be the favorite to win the tournament.
One of the interesting things about this inaugural tournament is that it is being funded by groups that are bought by anyone who would like to buy them.
There are two stay-and-play packages for The Jackrabbit. The Champions Experience is for a foursome for golf and includes entry into the College/Am, a round on the Dunes Course, unlimited golf on the Pines and Horse courses and costs $10,000. The Tournament Experience offers a foursome unlimited golf on the Pines and Horse courses and the chance to watch the final round of The Jackrabbit for a cost of $5,000.
Both experiences include lodging at the private Canyon Ridge Cabins on the rim of the Snake River Canyon or the Prairie Club Lodge and complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The proceeds from the packages will help support the cost of the tournament as well as critical initiatives for SDSU golf, such as providing salary support for a third assistant coach and funding for a future golf training facility.
VanDamme is coming into his second season as the Jackrabbits’ Director of Golf. In just his first season as head coach, he led the men’s team to finishing third in the Summit League Championship.
He will be looking to make even more progress this season with a team that did not have any seniors last year and will be gaining four incoming freshmen. VanDamme seemed excited when speaking about the freshmen coming in at this year’s media day in early August.
Alejandro Perazzo, a freshman from Venezuela, won the Venezuelan Open and according to VanDamme could be one of the top freshman in the nation this season. Jaxon Lynn, a freshman from Canada, played in the U.S. junior event. He is the first ever Jackrabbit recruit to do so. Keegan Brasch, a freshman from Oregon, has only played golf for three years as he is a former hockey player. He has had some success already placing 18th in the Oregon State Amateur tournament. Coach VanDamme acted the most excited when speaking about Felipe Strobach, a freshman from Peru, who played in the Pan Am games and excelled against other top players.
“We kind of grew throughout the year,” VanDamme said regarding last season’s performance. The Jackrabbits men’s golf team has not won a Summit League title since joining in 2007 or won a conference championship since 2002, when they were in the North Central Conference.
With very little success over the past few years, it seems as if Coach VanDamme is changing the culture around the golf program. A head coach going into his second season, bringing in recruits from not just around the Midwest, but from around the world, shows that he is making an effort to improve the program and build something that will last.
The Jackrabbit tournament should be a good stepping stone to build on, and VanDamme feels the same way, saying he is excited for where the program is headed.