Willman’s Stellar Senior Season Guides Huskers in 2011-12
The Nebraska men's golf team claimed one team title, while senior Scott Willman qualified for the 2012 NCAA Regionals in the Huskers' first season in the Big Ten Conference.
In Coach Bill Spangler's 11th season at the helm, Willman led a young Husker team that featured at least two underclassmen in every tournament lineup. Willman and sophomore Manuel Lavin anchored the NU lineup in every tournament during the 2011-12 campaign, while freshman Ross Dickson and junior Neil Dufford each appeared in all but one event.
Junior Jordan Reinertson, who played in only one fall tournament, came on strong to compete in all seven spring tournaments, and his score counted in all 19 stroke play rounds. Newcomers Kevin Gillick and Ryan Grassel combined to compete in nine tournaments. Gillick, a junior, appeared in four tournaments during the fall, while Grassel, a sophomore, played in five spring tournaments.
NU compiled a 299.85 team stroke average in 2011-12, often playing its best golf in the second round. The Huskers' second-round scoring average was 296.91, while the first and third rounds were 301.45 and 299.64, respectively.
The Huskers opened the 2011-12 campaign with their first team title in two seasons at the Fairway Club Invitational. Nebraska shot 894 as a team, edging Missouri State by eight strokes. Lavin led NU by firing a 1-under-par 215 over three rounds at ArborLinks en route to a runner-up individual finish. Dufford (T-7th) and Willman (T-10th) also notched top-10 finishes for the Huskers in the season-opening tournament.
The following week, the Huskers traveled to Alvamar Golf Club in Lawrence, Kan., for the Kansas Invitational. Nebraska did not break 300 in any of the three rounds and finished 12th at 919. Willman paced the Huskers, as he would on nine occasions during the season, with his tie-for-15th. Gillick played in his first tournament for NU as an individual and tied for 52nd.
As the month shifted to October, the Huskers headed to another familiar tournament at the D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate in Normal, Ill. The Big Red showed improvement in each successive round at the Weibring Golf Course, finishing 12th. Willman notched a 16th-place finish at 9-over-par 222. His final-round 70 was the best Husker score for the tournament.
For their fourth tournament of the season, the Huskers traveled to a new destination at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. The course, which is home to the PGA Tour's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, hosted the 17-team field. Willman shot a 2-under-par 214 to lead the Huskers to a 12th-place finish at 881. Lavin tied for 22nd at 217.
At their final tournament of the fall season, the Huskers finished 12th at the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate in Las Cruces, N.M. Willman tied for 14th, giving him top-20 finishes in every fall tournament. The senior's consistent play at NMSU Golf Course led to a 1-under-par 212 total, leading the Huskers, who shot 884. Dufford turned in the second-best Husker score at 225.
The Huskers started the spring at the Big Ten Match Play Championship in Bradenton, Fla., in February. Nebraska, which was the No. 12 seed, tied No. 5 seed Michigan State, 3-3, in the first round at The Concession Golf Club. The Huskers, who got wins from Willman, Reinertson and newcomer Grassel, won the match over the Spartans via tiebreaker. In the quarterfinals, Nebraska fell to No. 4 seed Purdue, 5-1, with the lone victory by Lavin. In their final match of the tournament, the Huskers lost to No. 1 seed Illinois, 6-0.
The Huskers traveled west for the next three tournaments, the first of which was the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate in Palm Desert, Calif. NU finished 21st in the loaded field, which included nine teams in the Golfweek/Sagarin top 50. Willman fired a 3-under-par 69 in the final round, which earned him a tie for 27th. He became the first-ever Husker men's golfer to earn Big Ten Player-of-the-Week accolades on Feb. 29.
Two weeks later, the Huskers resumed their trip out west at the Jackrabbit Invitational in Primm, Nev. NU posted 876, breaking 300 in all three rounds for the first time all season. Willman earned his best finish of the season with his tie for fifth at 3-under-par 213. He earned Big Ten Player-of-the-Week honors for the second consecutive tournament. Lavin turned in a 17th-place finish while Reinertson and Dickson tied for 32nd and 37th, respectively.
The trip out west concluded over spring break at the Denver Desert Shootout in Goodyear, Ariz. Nebraska broke 300 in all three rounds for a second consecutive tournament and tied for 11th at 871. Willman fired three rounds under par en route to a tie for sixth at 7-under-par 209, which was his season best. Reinertson had the second-best Husker score of the tournament, tying for 48th.
Nebraska headed back to the Midwest for the start of April and a two tournament stretch over seven days. The first was at the Mizzou Intercollegiate at The Club at Old Hawthorne in Columbia, Mo., where the Huskers finished eighth at 907. Willman posted his third consecutive top-10 finish, taking seventh place at 1-over-par 217. Dickson turned in his best finish of the season, tying for 31st at 227.
A few days later, the Huskers traveled to Iowa City, Iowa for the Hawkeye Invitational. Nebraska posted 292 and 291 in the first and second rounds, but faded to a 306 in the final round, which led to a 10th-place finish. It was the third top-10 finish in four tournaments for the Huskers, marking the best stretch of the season. Willman's even-par 216 put him in a tie for 11th, to lead the Huskers for a ninth consecutive tournament. Reinertson posted the best finish of his career, tying for 28th at 5-over-par 221.
The Huskers' season ended at their first-ever appearance in the Big Ten Championship two weeks later in French Lick, Ind. Nebraska finished 12th with 1,251 strokes. Reinertson matched his best career finish by tying for 28th on the Pete Dye Course. Dickson turned in the second-best Husker score at 312, as he tied for 42nd. Lavin and Willman tied for 51st, while Grassel finished 58th.
Following the regular season, Willman was selected to compete at the NCAA Norman Regional at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla. The senior tied for 40th, shooting 227 over three rounds. He finished six strokes behind the top individual, who was Alfred Kerstis of Arkansas-Little Rock. Willman finished the season with a team-leading 73.24 stroke average and led the Huskers in nine of 11 tournaments.