CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The stage is set for Stephen Jaeger's farewell tour at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Already one of the most decorated golfer's in program history, the senior captain is in position to add some impressive finishing touches to his four-year career.
"Having a Stephen Jaeger on a team is very important. You've got to have a leader," said UTC men's coach Mark Guhne. "If you want to talk about carrying a team, that is his responsibility. He has to lead by example."
So far, so good for the former Baylor School standout.
The Mocs tee off the spring season this Sunday at the Seahawk Intercollegiate in Wilmington, NC, with Jaeger leading the way with a No. 8 national ranking.
He's also on the watch list for the prestigious Ben Hogan Award, given annually to the top collegiate player in the country as NCAA golf's version of the Heisman Trophy. Yet, you wouldn't know it by talking to him.
"To be honest, I don't feel a lot of added pressure," Jaeger said. "I think the most pressure I feel is what I put on myself. I'm harder on myself than any media or coach could be. As long as I go out and play my best, I know that I'll be happy with myself and everyone else probably will be, too."
While Guhne wants Jaeger to lead his team, he doesn't expect his senior to carry the load alone. While the roster stands only six deep, it's rich with talent from top to bottom.
"It's the smallest roster we've ever had, but I can't tell you which five will start outside of Stephen," Guhne said. "This past qualifying week we played six rounds and still went into a playoff. It's going to be tough all season, but that's good for these young guys to go through that."
The expectations are a little more tempered for the women's program, which had to hit the reset button in the fall after the graduation its two best players from a year ago in Emma de Groot and Christine Wolf.
Head coach Colette Murray used the first three months of the season to make adjustments with swings and habits in hopes of putting her new-look team in position to succeed in the spring.
"In the past I've paid a lot of attention to the rankings, but I couldn't have cared less about them in the fall," Murray said. "I think I started the year putting too much pressure to play well and be in the top 25, but that kind of took the core fun aspect out of why they're really here.
"So now we're reverting back to the fundamentals in a sense. If the girls can look back at the end of the semester and say they're happy with the way they played and they had a lot of fun, I think the rankings and the wins, that stuff will take care of itself."
Maria Juliana Loza and local product Jordan Britt lead the UTC women into their spring opener at the Kiawah Island Intercollegiate in South Carolina this weekend. Loza is the lone upperclassmen on the six-player roster that includes four sophomores and one freshman.
"We're ready to go out and find out what we're made of because we've come a long way from the fall with a different approach," Britt said."They were such an experienced group last year and they knew how to handle themselves. We're a young team and we're still trying to figure out our games and what works best for us.
"We didn't have a bad fall semester, but we didn't play the way we could have to our full potential, so we're trying something new and really enjoying this semester. We'll just have to see what happens."
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