The University of Connecticut athletic teams have good memories in the state of Texas. In 2014 the men’s basketball team became the kings of March Madness by winning their fourth NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in Texas. This weekend, the UConn club golf team travels to Texas to compete in the NCCGA National Championship at TPC San Antonio. They hope to continue the Husky tradition and leave Texas as champions.
This season will be UConn’s first NCCGA National Championship. Current president Shane Baldwin founded their club team just one year ago. Their debut season saw team member Mike Thibodeau qualify as an individual, before the team sat out the Spring season. Now in their second official season competing, they find themselves atop the competitive New England region and headed to San Antonio.
Baldwin shared that his team’s goals were to qualify for the National Championship. Coming from a region with tough competition like Boston College and Providence, they expected to earn a wild card bid. UConn never thought they could run the table and win both regionals, but that is almost what happened. The first regional of the season was a grind, as weather played a huge factor in the tournament at Norton Country Club. They played Day 1 hoping to put up decent scores in hopes of making a move on Sunday, but Sunday had even worse weather. In the end they came out on top, which proved they had the ability to compete.
The shifting point for UConn as a club came not after their tournament win, but in between rounds at the second tournament. On Saturday of the second regional, Baldwin and his squad played flat out terrible. They were in 6th place, trailing their B team, and facing the possibility of no longer qualifying for Nationals. Baldwin had put too much effort into the club to let this opportunity slip away. That night before the next round, the club came together as a team.
“Only half of us knew each other. Four guys were brand new, but after that bad round we came together and knew we would make a move on Sunday.” The Huskies did just that, posting 5 scores in the 70's and finishing in second place, to secure their spot in the National Championship.
Thibodeau, the lone club member with nationals experience, has shared his experiences with the team. His favorite aspect of Nationals was having teams from all over come together and share experiences. Baldwin is looking forward to this, especially to see how other teams run their clubs, set up fundraising, and simply enjoy the game. The entire team is also looking forward to escaping the Northeastern weather for a few days.
“San Antonio will be a relief from the 30 degrees and 40 mile per hour winds,” said Baldwin.
**Jack Stephens is the NCCGA's Director of Communications. Contact him on Twitter @NCCGA.