OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 8, 2013) – When you’re on top, there’s only one way to go, and the Oklahoma Christian men’s golf team certainly doesn’t want to head in that direction.
The Eagles rolled to a dominating 52-shot win last year in the National Christian College Athletic Association Championship, taking the program’s third national title in five years. Coach David Lynn believes his team certainly remains a threat to win a fourth crown – and-or post a top-four national finish for a 15th straight year – but he knows there’s a long road ahead to get there.
The Eagles open the season Monday in the Martin Park Invitational at Reflection Ridge Golf Club in Wichita, Kan. They’ll be without departed seniors Vilhelm Bogstrand and Logan Herbst, who combined to win seven All-America honors during their careers, and current senior Jared Consoli, a two-time NAIA/NCCAA All-America who is redshirting in 2013-14.
“It will be different this year, not having any new recruited athletes coming on to the team,” Lynn said. “We’ve got a transfer who I think could impact the team, but we were probably nine guys deep last year. We won’t be as deep as we were in the past, but I expect guys who have been on the fringe of the lineup the last two or three years to step in there and play like veterans. I have absolutely zero doubt that they will.”
With Consoli redshirting, only two players will return from the quintet that played at the NCCAA Championship last year – senior Alasdair Dalgliesh and sophomore Sam Johnston. Johnston became the OC’s first NCAA Division II All-America selection last spring, making the second-team list. The best player in the Heartland Conference, he finished fourth in Division II in stroke average at 71.56 and also made the Division II All-Freshman team.
Johnston won two tournaments – beating 50 Division I golfers in one of them – and earned Heartland Conference player of the week honors three times. He also was honored as the NCCAA student-athlete of the week three times. During the summer, he advanced to the round of 16 in the California State Amateur tournament and was on the leaderboard entering the final day of the Oklahoma Open.
Dalgliesh didn’t win a tournament last year, but he and Johnston tied for runner-up honors (behind Bogstrand) at the NCCAA Championship. As a sophomore, he won two tournaments and he’s also a two-time All-America pick by the NAIA (spring 2012) and NCCAA (fall 2012). His stroke average last season was a solid 74.48.
Who fills the other three spots in the Eagles’ lineup? Lynn has a plethora of choices, starting with the squad’s third senior, Johnny Ellis. As a junior, Ellis played in a career-high seven tournaments (starting four) and posted a 76.11 stroke average. He tied for sixth at the Lions Classic in Fort Smith, Ark.
Junior Taylor Williams also will be counted on more, after playing in eight tournaments (seven starts) while posting a 76.38 stroke average as a sophomore. The former Oklahoma Class 5A prep medalist had four top-20 finishes during 2012-13 and also had a strong summer, qualifying for match play in the Oklahoma State Amateur Championship and tying for 19th in the state Stroke Play Championship.
Another junior, Trey Payne, played in six tournaments (starting four) as a sophomore and had a stroke average of 76.82. Sophomore Bobby Todd started in three tournaments with an 80.25 stroke average, but showed flashes of brilliance, such as the final-round 4-under 67 at Lincoln Park West in the U.C. Ferguson Classic in Oklahoma City.
Ryan Evans redshirted as a freshman last season and could figure into the mix after a solid summer, having joined Williams in qualifying for match play in the Oklahoma State Amateur. Sophomore Jackson Stuteville, a transfer from Southeastern Oklahoma State, is the team’s only newcomer. At Southeastern, he played in four fall tournaments in 2012 and posted a 77.78 stroke average.
“There’s no doubt that the talent level is there and it’s very deep,” he said. “We won’t be 10 players, two teams deep like we have been for the last decade and that will create a little different environment. I’m looking forward to our nine guys getting closer and being as competitive as we always have.”
With OC ineligible for the NCAA Division II Championship while the university is in the Division II membership process, the focus for the Eagles has turned to the NCCAA Championship in the fall season.
The Eagles will play six fall events – three primarily Division II tournaments, another featuring junior-college powers from across the nation and another with 13 Division I squads – before returning to Panama City Beach, Fla., for the NCCAA Championship.
“I don’t want to say that anything short of a national title is a disappointment, because in golf, we easily could play great and get beat,” Lynn said. “We’ve had that happen to us before in other tournaments. Yes, we would be disappointed. There would be no doubt about that, because that’s our goal – to win another championship.
“It’s a rare opportunity to win back-to-back national championships. We haven’t done it before. We are looking forward to the opportunity to be the defending champion. These kids have the talent and ability to focus and all of the things that it takes to win. It’s just a matter of being ready that week.”