When members of the Williams College golf team learned that Rick Pohle was retiring as their coach and head professional at Taconic Golf Club, they were naturally concerned about who his replacement would be.
Apparently, those concerns were quickly put to rest by new coach and new Taconic head pro Josh Hillman, who served as Pohle's assistant in 2006-07 before becoming the head pro at Berkshire Hills Country Club.
"We were worried that when they were hiring a new head pro they wouldn't care about the team," said senior co-captain Jack Ervasti. "But Josh has come in and brought a lot of new energy to the program. He's fired up and has made a lot of changes."
For the 35-year-old Hillman, no stranger to college golf after a stellar playing career at the University of Rhode Island, the dual positions of coach and head professional have kept him busy. But he's having a blast and is excited about the squad he inherited from Pohle, who turned the Ephs into a regional power in his 29 years as coach.
"We have a fantastic team," said Hillman prior to leaving for two weeks of "spring training" in Florida that will include a tournament against Williams' NESCAC foes in Port St. Lucie. "They are a bunch of good kids right down to their souls. They have been working incredibly hard in the offseason."
Much of that has to do with Hillman's presence.
"We've had a more structured program [this winter]," Ervasti said. "We've upped our lifting, we're using new simulators and we've been going to a range in Albany to hit balls. It's all a function of Josh being here. Coach Pohle spent his winters in Florida. I think we have our games a little more together. There has been a concerted effort to ramp up the preseason."
The Ephs are coming off a strong fall season. They won three of five tournaments and finished second and fourth in the other two. The runner-up finish came in the NESCAC fall tournament and qualified them for the four-team spring NESCAC championship on April 28. Trinity will host the tournament as a reward for winning the fall title. The winner in April earns a coveted berth into the NCAA Division III
"We like our position going into the spring, but we've been in that position the last few years and haven't capitalized," Ervasti said. "The other tournaments are a buildup to that one. We don't go to nationals if we don't win it."
The Ephs most recent NCAA appearance came in 2008.
With Ervasti and co-captain Wyatt Sparks providing senior leadership and five juniors who have all proven themselves, the Ephs are deep and talented.
Juniors Russ Bowen, Dylan Dethier, Matt McCarron and Jake Abrahams are all coming off strong fall campaigns. Bowen had the team's lowest stroke average and won the Bowdoin Invitational. Dethier, a Mount Greylock Regional High School graduate, was co-medalist with McCarron in the Williams Invitational and Abrahams was a model of consistency.
In addition, Cody Semmelrock, who had a solid sophomore season, returns after spending last semester in Scotland and sophomore Jake Goldenring has played in all but one event in his college career.
"There are a number of people who will push each other," Ervasti said. "There is going to be a fight for spots. There are eight on the [Florida] trip and each has a shot at the lineup and we have some freshmen who have shown promise in addition to that."
Hillman echoes his co-captain's assessment.
"We have a very deep team and a large roster," Hillman said. "I could not be more enthusiastic for the spring season. We have a lot of good things to look forward to."
To contact Richard Lord:
or (413) 496-6236