Former golf coach Gary Mucica always took immense pride in his program at UMass Lowell, and the Northeast-10 Conference Championship was always one of his main targets every fall.
Though they have never won the Conference title, he believed the River Hawks were contenders. Every year.
Mucica passed away after a short battle with cancer on July 2. With him in mind, UMass Lowell looks to win its first NE-10 title at the En-Joie Country Club in Endicott, N.Y., hosted by Le Moyne.
Jim Mahoney, who spent the last six seasons as an assistant coach, took over head coaching reins this season.
“Gary is always in our minds. They really want to do well for him,” Mahoney said. “We’ve dedicated the season to him.” The members of UMass Lowell’s contingent will wear black ribbons in honor of Mucica.
After the 2012 spring season – UMass Lowell’s best since the restoration of the program to NCAA Division II status in 2005 – and an impressive start to this fall, the River Hawks are considered among the favorites for the 2012.
UMass Lowell captured its first tournament of the year, the Northeast Intercollegiate Championship, behind five players in the top 14 places separated by only six strokes. In the Dowling September Shootout, the River Hawks placed sixth (second among NE-10 schools) behind four players in the top 3 places separated by only three strokes.
“We’re doing a lot of the same things as far as practice rounds and tournaments,” said senior co-captain Andrew Fecteau of Newbury. “But we’re missing Coach Mucica a lot. I know (Mahoney) wanted to keep things really similar, I think to honor Gary, so it’s been as smooth as we could’ve made it.”
In the NE-10 Preseason Coaches Poll, released Aug. 27, UMass Lowell was tabbed fourth behind frontrunner Bentley, Adelphi and American International College.
Four players – Fecteau, seniors Sylvain Debiais of St. Jean de Monts, France and Jordan Traa of Calgary, Alberta, and sophomore Harry Hulme of Manchester, England – were members of the 2011 squad which placed fourth at the NE-10 championship.
Sophomore Kevin Fay of Lawrence completes UMass Lowell’s lineup, making for the same quintet that won the Northeast Intercollegiate Championship two weeks ago.
“They’re really performing well,” said Mahoney. “In the first tournament, we certainly performed to our abilities. Last weekend it was a little tougher, real windy. But moving forward, we’re just going to get stronger.
“All in all I think this is a good, strong, deep team and I think we’ll do very well,” he added.
UMass Lowell’s best effort at the NE-10 Championship was a runner-up finish in 2008 behind former standout Brendan Livingston, who carded a 67 for the first round and a 79 (146) for the second. Anthony Gallardo shot a 77-76—153.
“The five guys we’re bringing can pretty much play any golf course,” Fecteau said. “If we go there and play like we can, we’ll be right there at the top. We’re all basically at the same talent level, but I don’t think any of us has played our best yet.”