HEY, THOSE GUYS LOOK FAMILIAR

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Former VCU star Lanto Griffin (-12) won the Delta Dental Virginia State Open this weekend.

Former VCU star Lanto Griffin (-12) won the Delta Dental Virginia State Open this weekend.

We’ve officially reached summer’s angry phase in Richmond. The heat index is a billion right now, and my lawn melting. Local weathermen and women are warning people with beards – there are a healthy number of bearded folks in this town – against spending time outdoors, due to the high risk of spontaneous beard brush fires.

But it’s not all bad. As I hunkered down inside and reclined on a couch I fashioned from blocks of ice, I was able to follow the exploits of a handful of VCU alums who killed it this weekend.

First and foremost, Lanto Griffin, a former CAA Golfer of the Year for the Rams, ran away with the Virginia State Open Championship by six strokes this weekend. For his efforts Griffin (-12), who turned pro after graduating from VCU in 2010, pockets $6,300. Griffin opened the tournament with back-to-back rounds of 66 and 68 and took a 5-stroke advantage into Saturday’s final round. Griffin briefly saw his lead cut to three strokes Saturday, but recovered to win going away.

Meanwhile, former VCU Soccer standout Nate Shiffman enjoyed possibly the best moment of his young pro career Sunday when he scored the Richmond Kickers’ lone goal in the 84th minute against West Bromwich Albion from the English Premier League. Shiffman’s strike briefly tied the match, but West Brom answered in the 88th minute to secure a 2-1 win.

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Treveon Graham. You’ve heard of him, right? The Rams’ great continues to plug away for the Spurs in NBA Summer League action in Las Vegas. Playing time in summer league games can be all over the map, and Graham’s burn is no exception, but he did pick up 20+plus minutes in back-to-back games this weekend. On Sunday, Graham pumped in 12 points and corralled five rebounds in a summer league semifinal victory over Atlanta.

Graham is still trying to find the range from NBA 3-point range (shooting 22 percent), but his other metrics this summer have been pretty good. He’s averaging 6.2 points and 2.8 boards and shooting 42 percent overall for the Spurs in nine contests. Graham and the Spurs will play in the Las Vegas Summer League Championship Game against Phoenix Monday at 9 p.m. on NBATV.

THE RAM REPORT IS OUT NOW!
The latest edition of the Ram Report is online now! Check out a feature on VCU Basketball Coach Will Wade, not to mention stories on Olivia Sutton, the first lacrosse player in VCU history, and baseball’s connection to Puerto Rico. READ HERE.

CAP TIP TO BASEBALL & CATCHING UP WITH FORMER RAMS

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Lefty Heath Dwyer was 10-3 with a 3.01 ERA for VCU this season.

Lefty Heath Dwyer was 10-3 with a 3.01 ERA for VCU this season.

In case you missed it, VCU Baseball saw its season come to an end over the weekend after dropping a pair of games to No. 5 Miami in the NCAA Super Regionals. It was a heckuva ride, and we enjoyed every minute of it. The Rams went on a late-season tear – winning 13 straight games at one point – to win their first conference title since 2010 and reached the Super Regionals for the first time.

Looking ahead to next season, the Rams return nearly all of their starting lineup in the field, save starting shortstop Vimael Machin, who hit .339. The pitching staff, which posted an outstanding 2.92 ERA, will look completely different next season. Heath Dwyer, JoJo Howie, Matt Lees, Matt Blanchard, Daniel Concepcion, Tyler Buckley and Thomas Gill – seven of VCU’s most-used eight arms – all graduate. Look for right-hander Sean Thompson, who was outstanding as a freshman this year, to anchor that staff next season.

But your opportunity to cheer for some of those seniors may not be over. The 2015 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft begins tonight. The first and second rounds, plus compensation picks, will be held Monday beginning at 7 p.m. Although no Rams are expected to be called tonight, Tuesday’s action will include rounds 3-10, and Wednesday will include rounds 11-40. Hopefully a number of these guys will spend the rest of their summer playing Rookie ball somewhere.

ELSEWHERE…
Speaking of VCU Baseball players continuing their careers in the minors, keep your eye on former Ram Kyle Haynes. A 20th-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 2012, Haynes, now a member of the Yankees’ system, is throwing very well at Double-A Trenton. As of this writing, he’s dealing to the tune of a 1.82 ERA in 18 appearances. Trenton will be visiting the Richmond Flying Squirrels at The Diamond June 23-26.

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BACK IN THE SWING: FORMER VCU STAR REKINDLES PROFESSIONAL CAREER

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Former VCU star Ted Brown has revived his professional career in hopes of a PGA Tour card one day.

Former VCU star Ted Brown has revived his professional career in hopes of a PGA Tour card one day.

If nothing else, the second act of Ted Brown’s professional golf career will have the benefit of perspective.

Brown, the one-time VCU star and member of the Colonial Athletic Association’s Silver Anniversary Team, is looking forward to the New Year with fresh optimism after he earned full status on the Web.com Tour, formerly the Nationwide Tour, for the first part of the 2015 season. The Web.com Tour is the primary feeder to the PGA Tour.

He qualified a guaranteed spot in the first eight events of the year when he placed 35th at the tour’s Q-School at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Dec. 16. Brown shot 8-under at the six-round qualifier, including a 5-under 67 during the fourth round.

Brown will head to Panama for the first event of the Web.com Tour season in late January. His status for the remainder of the season will depend on the amount money he wins. Slots for tour stops are subject to a weighted lottery, and players who win the most money stand the best chance of receiving a place in tournament fields.

The means there will be pressure on Brown to play well out of the gate to keep his comeback on an upward climb. If nothing else, he’ll look at the experience with a clearer mind than he did before subpar play and a lack of financing all but brought his career to a halt in 2012 and 2013.

“When you step away from it for a little while, it’s a little easier to get a better perspective,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating [that I couldn’t play]. I had plenty of years of doing it. The more frustrating thing was not doing something with it earlier.”

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GOLF NCAA REGIONAL PREVIEW

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VCU Golf punched its ticket to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2010 on April 27 when it captured the A-10 Championship. The Rams are off to the Briggs Ranch Golf Club May 15-17 in San Antonio, Texas. Our own Mike Voyack recently caught up with the team to look ahead to NCAA play.

FALL RAM REPORT NOW ONLINE

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Folks, the Fall 2013 edition of The Ram Report is now available online. Check out profiles on Men’s Soccer goalie Andrew Wells, Women’s Soccer Coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel, former first round draft pick Justin Orenduff and Field Hockey’s Nicole Barry, who had an interesting summer internship, plus a bunch of other good stuff. Click the cover below to read it all.

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KILLING TIME WITH BALL TRICKS

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I really like golf, except when I really hate it.

It’s a great game, and it’s hard not to enjoy a day on a pristine, scenic golf course. But I’m also terrible, which tends to curb my enthusiasm. It does make for some colorful moments. Ask anybody who’s survived a round with me.

Anyway, I can’t even imagine being able to perform ball tricks like VCU senior Adrian Parada does here. He’s just killing time on the range, while I would probably pull a hamstring trying to keep this ball in the air for any more than a couple of bounces.

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As good as that is, Parada still has a ways to go to match VCU’s own Chuck “The Hit Man” Hiter, who seems to have a pretty good handle on this trick shot thing.

ZYLSTRA TO PLAY IN FIRST PGA EVENT

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Former Ram Ryan Zylstra will play in the PGA Tour’s Greenbriar Classic this week.

Former VCU golfer Ryan Zylstra made a little noise this week.

On Monday, Zylstra fired a 64 in a one-round qualifier at The Resort at Glade Springs in Daniels, W.Va. to earn entry into the PGA Tour’s Greenbriar Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. It will be Zylstra’s first career PGA start. He carded 32 strokes on both the front and back nine and placed second in the field only to Daniel Obremski, who shot a course-record 62.

What makes Zylstra’s story even more impressive is that he had only recently returned to competitive golf, as he told the Huntington (W.Va.) Herald-Disptach:

Zylstra, 33, has been to the Greenbrier tournament the past two years as a spectator when his mother-in-law purchased tickets. This time he’ll be inside the ropes as a competitor. He and wife Sarah live in Richmond, Va. He played in college for the VCU Rams and tried his hand once at the pro level, but things didn’t work out. He recently got the desire back to play.

“I had some success, then lost interest,” he said. “I didn’t progress the way I wanted and ran out of money. I caddied for a friend (Ted Brown) on the Web.com Tour and got the buzz back. I wanted to compete again.

“I took a shot here. I got off to a good start and rode the momentum.”

A native of Cambridge, Ontario, Zylstra played for the Rams from 2000-02 and was a member of CAA Championship teams in 2001 and 2002. Zylstra placed third overall at the 2002 CAA Championship. Later that season, he spurred the Rams to their first NCAA Championship appearance when he fired a blistering second-round 67 and placed sixth at the NCAA East Region Qualifier in Atlanta, Ga.

Zylstra will tee off in the Greenbriar’s opening round Thursday at 2 p.m. on Old White TPC No. 10 in a threesome that includes Steve LeBrun and Luke List.

THE YEAR IN VCU ATHLETICS, FROM A TO Z

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Wrong A-B-C...whatever, close enough.

Wrong A-B-C…whatever, close enough.

June marks the conclusion of the college athletics calendar, and July’s arrival effectively signals the beginning of the 2013-14 season, at least for those of us in the biz, anyway. It all makes this week a good time to reflect back on the year that was in VCU Athletics.

A – is for Atlantic 10 Conference, in which, according to our slogan, the Rams were ‘all-in’. We were also all-in for another season of “Arrested Development” and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches, so we’re having a good year. VCU competed in the A-10 for the first time in 2012-13, a move that has elevated the program’s national profile. The Rams’ first A-10 title came via the women’s tennis squad, followed by a men’s tennis crown days later. Meanwhile, several other sports (men’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer) reached the league’s championship final.

B – is for the Ball family, one of the driving forces behind the VCU Golf program. They’re like the Kennedy’s of VCU Golf, but with a better short game. Matt Ball may have just completed his 14th season with the Rams, but this one was surely different than the others. That’s because 40 percent of his starting lineup was occupied by sons Adam and Matt Jr. Son Adam, a freshman, led the Rams in scoring average (73.53) this year, while Matt Jr., a junior, placed seventh at the A-10 Championship and was named to the league’s All-Academic Team.

C – is for Courtney Conrad, the alliteratively named star of the women’s soccer team. Conrad led the Rams with 11 goals, including five game-winners, and received All-Mid-Atlantic by the NSCAA.

D – is for Daniels, Troy. If you are a fan of basketball players who score three points at a time (and the signed, obscure Mark Price picture in my dining room proves I am), then you would’ve enjoyed Daniels’ 2012-13 season. In 36 games, Daniels bombed a school-record 124 three-pointers, including games of 11, nine and eight.

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MCNULTY IS LAST IN, FIRST OUT

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Freshman Jake McNulty started playing golf competitively just three years ago.

RICHMOND, Va. – Although he’s a year early, Jake McNulty may be right on time.

McNulty, a 17-year-old freshman, will be the No. 1 golfer in VCU’s lineup Sept. 15-16 when the Rams open the year at the Tar Heel Intercollegiate tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C. McNulty earned the No. 1 position after winning VCU Coach Matt Ball’s six-round (108-hole) qualifier. It’s a remarkable development, given that McNulty wasn’t even supposed to be on the team a little over a month ago.

A native of Port Perry, Ontario, where he participated in a Canadian Juniors program led by former VCU great Reg Millage, McNulty was Ball’s top recruiting target for 2013. Although he graduated from Port Perry High School in 2012, McNulty had planned to wait a year before enrolling in college, due in large part to his age.

But on July 30, Ball says he was informed that top golfer Marc Dobias would not be returning to the program, so he reached out to McNulty to see if he would be interested in VCU this year. McNulty visited the Richmond campus on Aug. 12 and committed the same day. He returned for good on Aug. 20.

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VCU ALUM EARNS PGA CHAMPIONSHIP BID

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VCU alumnus Paul Scaletta, 37, will play in his first PGA Championship Aug. 9-12.

Paul Scaletta has probably played more rounds of golf than he’d care to count. The same goes for the hundreds – or even thousands – of tournaments he’s participated in.

But none of them have been like this.

Scaletta, who played for the VCU Golf Team from 1996-98, recently won a spot at the 96th PGA Championship Aug. 9-12 at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C. when he finished fifth at the PGA Professional National Championship in Seaside, Calif. on June 28. It will be Scaletta’s first time playing in one of golf’s four majors.

For the last four years, Scaletta has been a PGA Club Professional at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla., where he teaches the game to men and women of all ages. It was through the PGA Professionals South Florida Sectional Qualifier that he won a trip to the National Championship.

Scaletta was a member of a pair of Colonial Athletic Association Championship squads for VCU in 1997 and 1998. In 1997, he tied for seventh at the CAA Championship at Lane Tree in Goldsboro, N.C., one stroke ahead of teammate and future PGA golfer John Rollins.

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