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Gil Guerrero knew this would be a year filled with unique challenges for his Owens Community College men's golf team. The Express had won three straight conference championships under Guerrero's direction, but 2009-10 presented a new set of issues that Owens had never encountered.
First, Guerrero had hip replacement surgery in August, and four weeks into his rehab, an infection developed and the artificial hip had to be removed. After another two and a half months of rehab, he received another hip, and additional rehab.
Assistant coach Josh Williams, a former member of the Owens golf team, led the squad through the fall season.
It was not until February that Guerrero was able to rejoin his team, and by then six players had been lost due to lack of academic performance, or rules violations. The Express had to scramble to put together a team for the critical spring season, and ended up with a roster full of players with freshman eligibility and little experience.
"My assistant did a great job, and the kids that stuck it out are good kids, but we had our ups and downs," Guerrero said. "Spring is what really counts in college golf, but there was a lot of internal stuff they had to overcome before we could really come together as a team."
The group Guerrero assembled included a strong contingent of Toledo-area golfers. The Express had Torey Brummett from Cardinal Stritch, Brooks Gardner and Kyle Laberdee of Bowling Green High School, Nick Speck from Eastwood High School, Lee Schmidlin from Whitmer, and Patrick Stacy from Van Buren High School. The team also included Canadian Ryan Medeiros and Tyler Bice of Elida.
The Express improved as the spring season played out, and finished second in the league, qualifying for the recent NJCAA Region XII Golf Championships in Battle Creek, Mich., where they finished seventh out of 12 teams.
Guerrero said the turmoil in the fall did not permit the Express to build the team chemistry necessary to perform at a top level, but he was impressed with the way his young group accepted the challenges.
"Most of these kids had not competed at this level before, and they had to realize that they needed to score for the team, not for themselves, for us to be successful," Guerrero said. "They gave it great effort, and thanks to that, we have some depth now as we move forward."
Guerrero said the Express, which includes a number of golfers who played against each other in high school, have molded themselves into a solid unit. His expectations are high as Owens looks ahead.
"We are trending in the right direction," Guerrero said. "I have really good kids on this team, and they have demonstrated that with good kids and some hard work and perseverance, good things can happen. For these kids to go through what they went through, and to come out with a winning record, that's something to be proud of. They were playing their best at the end of the season."
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