By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
Back-to-back national trophies? Almost.
Coming off of a national championship run last semester, as well as two straight first place finishes in regional qualifiers, the Grand Canyon University Club Golf team just missed winning their second consecutive national title, finishing second at the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA) Fall National Tournament in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The Lopes seemed poised for another championship run, but couldn’t overcome the ‘home course advantage’ of the Golf Academy of America, who won the tournament at Barefoot Golf Course, the course they call home throughout the year.
Even though the competition was undoubtedly the toughest that the club golf team has faced all year, Lopes Head Coach John Wasson was positive that there was another reason for his team’s shortcomings over the weekend.
“Without a doubt, the team just wasn’t able to perform up to their abilities this time around,” said Wasson. “We had a good number of younger athletes who were competing in nationals for the first time, so it could have just been nerves. I don’t know if that was the case for the whole team, but it seemed like the younger players were somewhat nervous, and that could obviously impact their play a little.”
Looking forward to next semester’s competition, Wasson is hopeful that his athletes will learn from this valuable experience and find a way to overcome the nerves of competition in the future.
“Interestingly enough, we will actually be losing four of our top players this December as they graduate,” noted Wasson. “We still have a lot of really good young talent on the team, so I expect us to continue to be competitive as long as we really learn from our experience this time around.”
Matthew Polivka and Joey Russo led the way for the Lopes individually. Polivka finished the tournament in a tie for 6th among individual golfers with a 1-over par 145, just four strokes off the page of the individual national medalist, University of Michigan’s Ian Martin. Russo finished in a tie for 11th with a 3-over 147. Both were named to the NCCGA’s All-Tournament team.
In addition to identifying some areas in need of improvement, the Lopes’ performance in this semester’s nationals had some other bright spots.
“Even though we didn’t get the first place finish that we all wanted, another second place national finish really helps to cement the fact that we are a force to be reckoned with,” explained Wasson. “We still managed to beat all of the other university programs, which is huge. If our players keep growing and learning from this experience, we will undoubtedly continue to get better as the years go by.”
Interested in joining the club golf team? Contact the coach to learn more!