- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2011

As this week’s Melwood Prince George’s County Open draws near, several Nationwide Tour golfers have only one thing on their minds: football.

While Memorial Day filled the nation’s streets with patriotic flag-bearers paying homage to fallen heroes, it also littered televisions with images of an embattled football coach who lost his job and his reputation. Jim Tressel — the seemingly impermeable coach who led Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years — stepped down from the highest echelon of college football. His swift fall from grace has been the talk of the town for athletes in many arenas, including the Nationwide Tour, where Big Ten graduates have eagerly kept abreast of the turmoil in Columbus.

Although it’s overrun with SEC and ACC graduates, the Nationwide Tour boasts six former Ohio State golfers. Two of them are in the field this week, and neither is particularly excited about this summer’s NCAA investigation, which could result in multiple player suspensions and bowl bans.

“I don’t think this NCAA investigation is going to go too well,” said Ryan Armour, a 1998 Ohio State graduate and avid football fan. “There’s a lot to be said about the NCAA, and we’ll leave it with that.”

Armour — who has racked up three top-25 finishes in seven starts on the Nationwide Tour this year — said that while the Tressel scandal will not be a distraction in this week’s tournament, it is certainly something that has been on his mind. Rather than display resentment toward the beleaguered coach, Armour showed sympathy toward him, claiming that Tressel was ultimately guilty of being overprotective of his players. He has several friends who played for Tressel at Youngstown State, all of whom think very highly of their former coach.

“I just feel bad,” Armour said. “I have never heard any of them say anything bad about him. That’s what you would want as a coach, I would think, is when people turn around and ask if your own son would play for him and every one of those guys I’ve talked to would.”

The other Buckeye in this week’s field, Stephen Gangluff, also expressed remorse toward Tressel. After everything that has come to light though, Gangluff said Ohio State fans are prepared to see Tressel go.

“Everybody thought he was Mr. Perfect,” Gangluff, a 1996 graduate, said. “Ohio State fans loved him when he was [winning], and now that they saw that he screwed up I think everybody’s ready to get him out.”

Travis Hampshire, who played golf at Purdue, wasn’t crying about the situation.

“It’s great for the rest of the Big Ten,” Hampshire said. “It kind of changes things up a little bit maybe. A good friend of mine that played on the PGA Tour last year, Chris Wilson, loves Ohio State, so I get to rib him for the next couple years.”

Big Ten graduates weren’t the only ones talking football Tuesday. Kyle Reifers grew up in Columbus before attending Wake Forest, and he still pulls for the Buckeyes more than the Demon Deacons on the gridiron. Reifers — who has been to four Fiesta Bowls and the national championship game to cheer on his hometown team — said he is far less concerned about Tressel’s future than that of his team.

“It’s not necessarily about him leaving, it’s more about what’s the program going to be left with,” Reifers said. “What’s going to be the effect moving forward? It will be interesting to see. Hopefully they can rally around each other and figure something out.”

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