It's been a long time since the Dayon club golf team has made the NCCGA National Championship. Six years to be exact. That team was led by NCCGA President Matt Weinberger, who is now out of school and serving as the NCCGA Commissioner and Nextgengolf COO.
The current team president, PJ Greene, said there were many things he wanted to happen when he took the leadership of the club team this fall. He wanted to open the team up and give more players the opportunity to get involved, and he wanted to improve the team chemistry. The most challenging goal he had was to get the team in a winning mindset.
Dayton has a few guys that are finishing school shortly and PJ knew this might be one of the last chances for them to experience nationals, so he really tried to get it in their head that Nationals was the goal from the start of the season.
“A few of the guys are graduating so I said, ‘let’s go out with a bang”.
Even for the players that weren’t graduating, Greene's goal was for them get into the winning mindset and for the entire squad to have a great team atmosphere overall.
The atmosphere of the Dayton team epitomizes the Ohio Valley Region. “We’re all out there to compete, but it’s always a blast being there. Everyone’s friends with each other. That’s what club golf is about. Everyone with a common interest is coming out to compete and have a good time at the same time.”
One of the ways Greene was able to grow the team, get more players involved and still keep the competitive atmosphere was to have inter-club matches where they were competing against each other. He also set up a few matches with other schools, and he really pushed his teammates to get out to the team practices.
One thing that has helped Greene create this team atmosphere is the help and support of several leaders on the team. He has former Ohio Valley Regional Coordinator and former team president, Josh Rinear, Jeff Davison - the president from last year, and Jon Prater has helped out a lot as well.
“I’d say there isn’t one person who has really made this team what it has been this season. The MVP is really all 8 of us." Greene said.
The team is excited to head to Disney. “Heading down to Disney in November, you can’t beat that.”
He also said he feels good about the team performing.
“I’m excited to bond with the team. We definitely want to put our name out there." he said. "I think we are definitely a force to be reckoned with, when we haven’t been in the past. We might have a chance at being the darkhorse.”
The goal for a new club golf team has always been to make Nationals, but usually it takes a while. After a successful first season in the NCCGA, taking second in the Metro region, Fairfield club president Will Woods knew that the best to come for Fairfield was still on the horizon.
The horizon wasn't too far away as Fairfield will make their first trip to nationals this weekend, in only their third semester competing.
Like all successful club presidents, Woods knows that the team is paramount in accomplishing the goals set forth each fall. The Fairfield club team knows that you can not accomplish great things without the support of others and supporting each other on the team.
“Club golf is family." Woods said about the team. “We host pasta dinners, help younger students pick dorms, class schedules and excel in the classroom. Without performing your best in the classroom (it) means you cannot perform your best on course. It is great to hear from club sports that prospective students are already asking how they join club golf when they get to campus next fall.”
It is this passion and dedication to the success of the players that Woods has attributed to their early success and students being interested in being part of their family. Besides their mandatory two practices a week, Woods also explained that they make frequent range trips to prepare themselves for the season and to stay in top competing shape.
The culture and atmosphere created by Woods and the Fairfield team has proved to be a winning formula. The stags are making their way to Orlando at a perfect time as well. Golf in the Northeast becomes scarce in November and temperatures will be a lot more comfortable in Florida than southern Connecticut.
Besides the sunny and warm temperatures of Orlando, the Fairfield club team is most excited about competing against schools from across the country.
The battle in the Desert region emerged a champion in Arizona State. ASU is no stranger to diversity, as they put together some of the best rounds in the NCCGA while battling against tough conditions. They battled fierce winds and a tough competitor in Grand Canyon University, and held strong to win the region in a tie-breaker to secure the region's automatic bid to nationals.
I asked Club President Teig Hauer what it was like to go into T2 knowing that you were down by a 14 stroke differential in the region.
“Honestly we were pretty loose going into it." Hauer said. :We knew that all we needed to do was go out and play a round of solid golf.”
“If you started to play poorly, keep your head in it. Fight for every stroke.” was the mantra running through the minds of ASU golfers. They were focused, determined and ready for their chance to return to NCCGA nationals.
The ASU team found some much needed team and pair chemistry the second day of tournament 2. Hauer mentioned that this has really propelled the team into nationals, saying that they are more excited than ever to simply just pick up a club and go practice.
With the bid in place, flights and accommodations booked, the only thing left is two rounds of golf to see where ASU will finish their remarkable season.