May 13, 2024
Life At Witt

Eye on the Tigers: J.F. Aber '24

J.F. Aber '24 Has Excelled In His Final Season Leading Wittenberg Men's Golf

Despite all of his success, one goal still eluded Wittenberg men's golf standout J.F. Aber '24 as the 2023-24 season wound down. That goal — becoming the North Coast Athletic Conference Championships medalist — is no longer a bucket-list item, as he made it reality earlier this month.

"Being the conference medalist is something I've really wanted to do for four years now, so to actually do it means a lot to me," Aber said.

Aber's list of collegiate accomplishments is quite long. This year alone, he was a four-time NCAC Men's Golfer of the Week and was named NCAC Player of the Year and a member of the All-NCAC First Team as the NCAC Championships medalist. He was also one of just 16 current and former student-athletes conference-wide to be recognized on the NCAC 40th Anniversary All-Decade Team.

Currently No. 12 nationally in the Division III Scoreboard rankings, Aber was the individual medalist in five of the Tigers' 11 events this season and posted a three-round school-record score of 9-under-par at the Savannah Invitational on March 4-5. After finishing tied for seventh, tied for fifth and third, respectively, in each of his first three seasons at the NCAC Championships, Aber was able to add conference medalist to his career achievements that also include being a two-time NCAC Player of the Year (2023 and 2024), four-time All-NCAC honoree (First Team in 2022, 2023 and 2024 and Second Team in 2021) and seven-time NCAC Athlete of the Week. He was named PING NCAA Division III All-Great Lakes Region as a freshman in 2021 and added a PING NCAA Division III Second Team All-America accolade as a junior last season.

"As a captain this year, I've really stressed the importance of taking things seriously and putting in extra work even when you might not want to, and to see all of that pay off means a lot to me," Aber said.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Aber has put together an impressive collegiate career at Wittenberg after initially receiving recruiting interest from a few Division I schools. Considering everything he has accomplished, it can be hard to envision him playing any other sport but golf. But he didn't start playing golf seriously until he was about 12 years old, and even then, had to be convinced to do so by a neighbor. It wasn't long, though, before he developed a deep passion for the sport.

"I was playing baseball and basketball, and my neighbor told me, 'You're not going to go pro in baseball or basketball, so you might as well pick a new sport.' So I picked golf," he said. "When I started playing seriously, I fell in love with it. I started playing basically every day."

Aber credits his father, John Aber, a PGA member and teaching professional at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, for helping him further develop his golf skills and passion for the sport. In high school at Sewickley Academy, he was a four-year member of the varsity boys golf team that won state titles in his sophomore and senior seasons. He capped his high school career by winning the individual district championship in his senior year.

A self-described borderline Division I collegiate player coming out of high school, Aber opted to play at the Division III level and was intrigued by Wittenberg's national profile.

"I decided to pursue the Division III route, especially with Wittenberg, because I thought we could compete for championships and be in the mix at a lot of tournaments," he said. "I chose Wittenberg because I think they were ranked sixth in the country in Division III at the time, which showed that they were very competitive."

Having spent the last four years in Springfield, he knows he made the right decision in choosing Wittenberg. He has enjoyed the small class sizes and appreciates how the school prioritizes its athletics programs. The men's golf team has also provided a special experience.

    Throughout my time here, the men's golf team has been a great group of guys. It's a bunch of unique people who really care about each other and the sport, and they respect everything that Wittenberg has to offer.
    J.F. Aber '24

    Head coach David Wetterich said Aber has been a fantastic addition to the Tigers men's golf team.

    "In my first two years of coaching, I have been privileged to work with J.F. His insatiable passion for the game of golf and perfecting his craft is motivating to his team. It has been inspiring to work with him and witness the greatest collegiate golfer that Wittenberg has seen."

    After joining an already nationally competitive program as a freshman, Aber has led the way in helping the Tigers maintain that status. The team won the NCAC title in 2023 and competed in the NCAA Division III Championships in 2022 and 2023, finishing seventh and 13th, respectively. Individually, Aber tied for third and tied for 51st in those tournaments and credits his mental approach and strategy for helping him succeed on the course.

    "I often outsmart people, and I'm also very patient," he said. "I'm always trying to aim for the places where I have the highest percentage to make a good score. I never get too greedy, and I think that really helps me play well."

    Aber has noticed drastic improvements in his patience and his swing over the past few years and has developed another critical component to his game — remaining calm under pressure, even on the biggest of stages.

    "I've gotten pretty comfortable with being close to the lead or having the lead," he said. "I got third at the NCAA Championships in my sophomore year, and I was nervous and freaking out. This year, during the conference championships, I felt very comfortable when I had the lead."

    Aber won this year's conference tournament by a margin of four strokes at 5-under-par, posting some impressive scores along the way. His first-round 68 and second-round 66 were the best in the 40-man field in each of those rounds, and his total of 205 marked a school-record score for a three-round tournament. However, after being selected as the narrow favorite over Kenyon in the Pre-Championship Coaches Poll, the Tigers finished as the runner-up to the Owls, making an NCAA bid an uncertainty. Aber and his teammates didn't have to wait long, though, as they learned the next day that they would be competing in the 2024 NCAA Division III Championships as an at-large selection.

    "I think we were one of the last four teams selected. We didn't really know what was going to happen, but we're very grateful that we did get selected," Aber said. "After we got the at-large bid, people were grateful, and we're putting in extra work in the little time that we have. We're going into nationals thinking anything can happen."

    This year's NCAA Championships tournament is being held May 14-17 at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada. The team and individual champions will be determined after 72 holes of play among a field of 221 competitors representing 40-plus teams. The Tigers played at Boulder Creek at the Fall Preview tournament in late October, finishing 12th in the 18-team field. Ranked No. 15 nationally in the latest Bushnell/Golfweek Division III Coaches Poll, the Tigers know they belong in the field and are happy to be able to continue their season.

    JF Aber Feature Graphic

    "We're going into it thinking, 'We might not be the highest-ranked team there, but anything can happen,'" Aber said. "So we're going to go do our best, and hopefully the chips fall our way."

    In the leadup to the NCAAs, Aber competed in the Clovernook Open, a three-round event featuring 120 competitors from the professional and amateur ranks held May 8-10 at Clovernook Country Club in Cincinnati. Competing at that and other non-collegiate events has helped him get a taste of pursuing professional golf, which is something he has considered.

    "I always tell people that I think I would regret it if I didn't try professional golf for one to two years, so I'll probably try to pursue it and see what happens," Aber said.

    Should a professional golf career not pan out, he hopes to use his Wittenberg education and finance degree to pursue a job involving the stock market.

    This year's NCAA Championships won't be his final collegiate event, however, as he is going to use his final year of eligibility to play at the Division I level at Marshall University.

    "Marshall seems like a fun and exciting opportunity for my last year of college golf," Aber said. "With that said, I'm very proud to have spent four years at Wittenberg and get my degree here."

    Upon departing Springfield for Huntington, West Virginia, Aber hopes to have left a legacy not only of success but also of highlighting the merits of playing at the Division III level.

    "On a personal level, I care a lot about playing well and getting my name in the record book and helping the team win tournaments and winning medalist at as many tournaments as I can," he said. "But I also hope I can help motivate people and show them that you don't have to play at a Division I or Division II school. You can play at a Division III school like Wittenberg and get better and work on your craft. Hopefully I'm inspiring some of the guys who are in high school right now who are looking for schools to consider playing at the Division III level."

    • To follow the live results of the 2024 NCAA Division III Men's Golf Championships tournament, click here.
    Wes Mayberry
    Wes Mayberry
    Associate Director of Athletics Communications

    About Wittenberg

    Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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