College Golf: St. Xavier programs aiming for next level
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media August 20, 2014 9:30PM
The St. Xavier men's golf team poses after winning the 2013 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. | Supplied photo
Updated: August 21, 2014 2:15AM
Mike Mandakas loves to play golf.
He’s quick to admit he also loves teaching and instructing the sport.
So which one’s his favorite?
The coach of St. Xavier’s men’s and women’s golf teams, Mandakas also is a PGA golf pro with years of experience to his name. He also owns The Players Club of Chicago in Justice, a driving range and teaching facility.
“I’ve always enjoyed golf because it’s a sport you can play for the rest of your life,” Mandakas said. “You can’t say that with most sports, and that’s always been my attraction. I was good enough to play golf (on a tour), but I was really good at playing, teaching and instructing. I enjoyed that side more.”
That commitment has paid off for both Mandakas and St. Xavier. The Hoffman Estates product started both programs from the ground up.
The men’s program is heading into its third season, the women’s program its second. The men’s team opens the fall campaign Sept. 6 and 7 at the Mount Mercy Invite in Riverside, Iowa. The women’s team opens Aug. 29 and 30 at the Carthage College Tournament in Bristol, Wisconsin.
Juggling both programs can be a daunting task, but Mandakas says “bring it on.”
“It’s a little hectic, but we’ve managed,” Mandakas said with a laugh. “It’s a time-consuming sport with a month and a half season over both the fall and spring, but you get used to it. It helped last year we had a season under our belt with the men’s team.”
St. Xavier’s men’s team lost three key seniors from last season’s squad that qualified for the NAIA Nationals. The experience is gone, but expectations remain at a high level.
“Reshaping year, not a rebuilding year,” Mandakas said. “We know we can compete and still have the opportunity to make it to nationals as a team.”
On the women’s side, Taylor Thompson, coming off an impressive freshman campaign, will lead the Cougars.
“With Taylor’s leadership, we have a very good chance to win conference (Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference) and get to the national championship as a team,” Mandakas said. “We want to take our golf to the highest level we can playing at the highest level.”
The future is bright, one with which Mandakas is happy to be a part of.
“We focus on hard work, fitness and practice. Those are the biggest things,” Mandakas said. “We’re starting to get good experience. There’s definitely an excitement around here. The buzz is pretty good, and it is growing pretty fast.”