Championship aspirations become par for golf team

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By Mac Moore

The grass is greener on the Cavalier side of the course. The men’s golf team finished in the top three at the first three tournaments of the fall. The team’s high standard is not surprising based on last year’s output, although the roster has no resemblance to that team.

The Cavaliers finished last season with the best finish in team history with a fourth place outing at the NJCAA Division I Golf Championship at The Rawls Golf Course in Lubbock, Texas. Cavaliers finished seven strokes back from national champion Central Alabama.

This squad retained none of the five competitors in that tournament. This year’s team has a freshman laden group that still aims to compete at the NJCAA championship this spring. Early tournaments have proved that reloading the team for another run is not a farfetched goal.

“We want to have the fall be a good start for us,” freshman Charlie Rhinehart said. “Our goal is to win conference and place top three at nationals. I believe we should be able to contend for top three as a team.”

Rhinehart has led the team in two of the first three tournaments. He tied for first place during the second tournament at Turkey Creek Golf Course in McPherson, Kan. Coach Lafeyette Norwood was pleasantly surprised by Rhinehart’s top finishes early in the season.

“He’s been showing a real strong consistency which delights me,” Norwood said. “I didn’t look for him as the top golfer going into the season, but I saw him as easily one of our top five.”

The work of Rhinehart and sophomore transfer Parker Miller has helped the team compete in every tournament so far. Miller finished first at the first tournament on the season, edging out Dodge City’s Ryan Hand by one stroke. The multiple second place finishes for the team against strong competition pleases the group, but also leaves them with the goal of improving.

“We didn’t achieve some of the things we wanted to achieve but we look at the possibility,” Norwood said. “With second place, I think we have something to look forward to, something to strive toward. Last year at this time we were finishing first place, but when we came back in the spring we lost at early tournaments because we were a little bit complacent.”

Rhinehart feels that the pressure of placing first also affects the individual players as much as it does a highly touted team.

“Personally I am a good grinder,” Rhinehart said. “Sometimes I might have a bad round early, but I’m able to work my way back in it. I would rather play in the top three or five than hold first in a tournament. The top guy always get nervous, those guys behind him get to focus on chasing him.”

The team will get a real look at how much they need to improve and where they stand after the National Division 1 preview that starts on Oct. 15 at Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, Iowa. The team will get their first look at both the competition and the course they will play on in the championship tournaments this spring.

“Everything is in a reasonable grasp,” Norwood said. “It is my responsibility to reinsure to them that every tournament they can go out and win. That isn’t unreasonable for their skill level. If they go out and play like we practice, with the scores they’ve been getting, we are going to have a lot of success.”

Contact Mac Moore, sports editor, at mmoore82@jccc.edu

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