January 31, 2002
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Jan. 31, 2002

Written by

Jeff Cunningham
Mace and Crown staff writer

Old Dominion golf coach Murray Rudisill calls the fall 2001 season "one of the best falls in 15 years." Junior Geoffrey Harris, a sports management major from Reading, England had a lot to do with that.

The 2000 Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year and had an outstanding fall, finisheg no worse than second in the four tournaments in which he competed. His stroke average for the fall was 70.0, a large improvement over last year's 74.8. He currently ranks second nationally by Golfstat.

Both Rudisill and Harris are quick to attribute that to a greater sense of maturity and course management. "I see a lot more (of the two) this year," said Harris, who started playing golf when he was five.

Rudisill agreed. "His course management skills are better," he said. "(On the course), he scrambles well and is able to make a lot of pars."

Rudisill also says that Harris is more comfortable shooting under par than in previous years. "Most players get to a score like 2-under par and they start playing cautiously," explained Rudisill. "But Harris is at a point where if he's 2-under, he'll try to make it to 3-under, then 4-under, and so on."

Harris returned to England this past summer. "I practiced less this summer than normal," he said. "But I'm consistently longer off the tee this year."

Given Harris' ability to save par when he gets into trouble, Rudisill readily compares Harris to PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson, a left-hander like Harris. "He has a great touch around the green," Rudisill said. "His swing isn't as smooth as Mickelson's, but his scrambling ability and touch around the putting surface remind me of him."

Despite the impressive numbers Harris has posted this fall, Harris admits he has some weaknesses. "Putting's my biggest weakness this year," he said. "I lean over the ball far too much."

Even so, Rudisill doesn't attempt to downplay Harris' importance to the team. "He's our number one player," he said. "Out of the 10 rounds he's played this fall, he's only been over par once. He definitely carries the team."

Harris doesn't mind that expectation. "There's really no pressure," he said. "I know I'm going to have a good round, and Michael Hospodar, the captain of the team always plays solid, so that leaves us to have two more good rounds everyday."

After finishing in the top 10 of every tournament this fall, Old Dominion is ranked 13th out of 39 in their district. Our stroke average has improved this year," said Rudisill. "Harris and Hospodar are a big part of that, but we have a very good team overall."

If Harris continues to improve, he may realize his goal of playing professionally. "I think he'll make it," Rudisill said. "A lot of people don't but, there are those who do."

If he does, he will join ODU graduates Jim McGovern of the PGA Tour and Joe Daley of the Buy.com Tour as the only golfers in school history to comopete on the pro level.

For right now, though, Harris and Rudisill are enjoying the team's success. It's been real good," siad Harris.