April 22, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- On Sept. 13, 2010, Brian Anania and Jeremy Rogers hit their first tee shots in a Marshall Invitational at Guyan Golf & Country Club. There's no way they'd have figured what started that day would finish as it is.
They are the only two seniors on the first golf team in Herd history to win three team tournament championships in one season.
That first was assured April 14-15 when the Herd placed its five team players in the top 12 to win the inaugural Greenbrier Collegiate Invitational on the storied Old White TPC at the historic resort.
They will close their careers - barring an upset title - in the 14-team, 54-hole Conference USA Championships at Oak Tree Country Club in Edmond, Okla., next Sunday through Tuesday.
Herd Coach Matt Grobe said Anania, Rogers, sophomore Logan Lagodich and freshmen Clark Robinson and Davey Jude will make up the Herd's five-man lineup at C-USA.
Anania, from Hurricane, and Rogers, of Buckhannon, have carved out names in state amateur golf outside their collegiate kelly green and white. However, they will miss being team players in what's a very individual sport.
"I'm going to miss it a lot," Anania said. "These four years, my teammates are family to me, and I'm mostly going to miss them all personally, just being around them all the time, on the golf course, off the course always together. Three of us live together in the same house, and all other guys basically come over to our house to hang out. We're always surrounded by one another, so I'll miss that."
Rogers said leaving team golf behind will be a test.
"You growing up playing in a lot of amateur stuff, and while you're in high school, and then it's not as much when you're here in college," he said. "We're a team and we're all friends, trying to get a win for the team.
"It's fun going on the trips with the guys. We all get along, and I'm definitely going to miss the trips. We played some good golf and we rooted for one another. We had a lot of fun. It's crazy to think we've already been here four years, and we got so much done."
Entering the C-USA tourney, Anania's 72.58 stroke average ranks No. 2 in Herd history in a single season, behind only former teammate Nathan Kerns, who posted a 71.72 last season. Anania became one of only 18 players in Herd history to win an individual title at the Cincinnati-hosted Bearcat Invitational in Hebron, Ky., last October.
"The way I personally I think about it, individually, I just go out and play my game, try not to think about what other guys are doing," Anania said. "Because while, yes, it is a team competition, it starts from the individual because you have to post a good number individually to help your team score. That's the way I think about it. I just try to go out and play my game."
Rogers is playing his best golf as his college career winds down. He has three top-10 finishes in his senior season and a 74.87 stroke average, a three-stroke improvement over his sophomore year. He said some of the improvement was mechanical; some was his growth in the game.
"It's been a little bit of both," Rogers said. "I played well in the fall, and over the over winter, Coach Grobe saw a couple things in my swing and we worked on that and it took a while. The first few tournaments, it was a struggle trying to get things worked out, but once everything started working, it's just kind of clicked.
"And it feels awesome to have started playing what I feel is probably pretty close to best I've played. I told my dad (Mike Rogers) the other day I'm a few shots from playing a really good round every time I go out there."
When Grobe's team took the title at the John Piper Intercollegiate last September at Stone Ridge in Bowling Green, Ohio, it was a first for Marshall men's golf since the Herd won the Kingsmill Invitational in Williamsburg, Va., in March 2000.
The Herd followed that Piper Intercollegiate triumph with team and individual (freshman Clark Robinson) titles the next week at the Patriot Intercollegiate at Locust Hill in Lorton, Va. Anania got the Bearcats title the next week, and then sophomore Logan Lagodich earned his first college title at the OBX/ODU Collegiate at Kilmarlic on North Carolina's Outer Banks two weeks later.
"The individual win was great," Anania said, "but I'd say the highlight for me was winning that first team event. I'd been here four years and it was the first time we won as a team, so I'd say that was huge. And then to win two more after that was even better ... winning three times, the first team to do it, that was an experience like no other. And for me, the individual win was to cap off a career here at Marshall."
Anania and Rogers were recruited to MU by retired Coach Joe Feaganes, whose name was affixed to the venerable Marshall Invitational this season.
Grobe, a former Herd golfer for Feaganes in the 1990s, said Feaganes "really found two great players in Brian and Jeremy when they were in high school. They have been a great asset to Marshall golf."
They have prospered off the course, too. They were recently part of the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll, which includes all student-athletes with grade point averages of 3.0 or better. Anania also achieved the C-USA Academic Medal, which goes to those at 3.75 cumulative or better.
Anania has a 3.94 GPA, majoring in management, with a minor in marketing. He is in the process of applying to the Acushnet Co., which owns golf brands Titleist and FootJoy. He said he is "working toward becoming a sales rep" for the company.
Rogers has a 3.35 in business administration, and is also minoring in marketing. He plans to stay at Marshall two more years to get his master's degree, and is "kind of interested in something in the health care management field," he said.
"It's been a great experience getting to coach Brian and Jeremy," Grobe said. "From the time I arrived on campus two years ago, these two guys have been great examples of what it means to be student- athletes. They are hard workers in the classroom and on the golf course.
"They were named Academic All-Americans last year and both look on track to be Academic All-Americans this year. They have really been leaders on this team for the last two years. They have been an example to their fellow teammates that they need to be good in all areas of their lives.
"It has been a pleasure to have Brian on the team. He has an incredible work ethic and a drive to get better. Brian will have a great future in the golf business and I am really looking forward to watching him throughout his career. Jeremy has been a consistent player since he arrived at Marshall. He really doesn't have any weaknesses in his game. He is a solid player and a solid individual."
They are in-state guys playing for an in-state school, and each of their mothers is a Marshall alumnus.
"It does have meaning," Anania said. "When I started high school, it was my goal to come here. Being a hometown kid, I grew up coming to football games here all the time. My mom (Dorie Anania) graduated from Marshall.
"Coming in, I had played against all these guys, like Christian Brand ... he was here and I personally knew him. I knew Bosten Miller really well, so that made the transition for me a lot easier with those guys being pretty good friends of mine and I was becoming their teammate."
Rogers said it "makes it really special, to be on the only Division golf team in the state. It's awesome to know you can go anywhere in the state and you can say you play for Marshall and people think it's really special that you get to play there.
"I have grandparents who live in Huntington (Ronald and Faye Legge) and my mom (Carla Rogers) is a Marshall graduate, so I've grown up around Marshall, and coming here and playing for the school is very special. And then getting three team titles for Marshall is icing on the cake."
The Herd heads to Oklahoma for the C-USA tourney hoping to add to its titles in a tough field - No. 18 UAB (GolfStat rankings) - is the favorite - and increase the 17 top-10 individual finishes the Herd has posted in 2013-14.
Last spring, Marshall finished fifth at C-USA - its best performance in eight years in the league.
"We thought last year we had a pretty decent chance there, but knew we'd have to play the best we've ever played as a group to even have a chance to win it," Rogers said. "This year going in, we know we have the ability to go out and play with anybody out there. It's a little different because we've won tournaments now. We've got three wins behind our backs and we know how to kind of close, I guess you could say."
Grobe hopes to announce three newcomers to his program as signees later this week, but he's not ready to turn the page on a great 2013-14 season just yet.
"This has been a really fun team to be around this year," the Herd coach said. "The team really gets along well and plays and practices hard and wants to improve. The team titles and individual titles are a testament to the hard work the team has put forward this year.
"I am really looking forward to taking this team to the Conference Championship ... should be a great week for us."