Lopes enter tournament as top-ranked team in nation
By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
While most students are traveling home for the summer, the Grand Canyon University Club Golf team is preparing to spend the weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, the home of this year’s NCCGA National Championship.
“It’s really big for us to be in the championships again,” explained Lopes’ Head Coach John Wasson. “This is our third straight nationals appearance, and as a program, when you can say you are consistently going, it attracts a lot of attention, and you can acquire more players who want to compete.”
Although the attention and notoriety of another nationals appearance is welcomed, the Lopes have one more goal to reach.
“Knowing where we’ve been, and that we’ve been so close to winning, and knowing that this team is really good, I’m not just hopeful to win, but I truly believe that we can win,” noted Wasson. “I think that we are highly qualified to win this whole tournament.”
For Wasson, such lofty goals are easy to hold, especially after his team’s most recent performance at the NCCGA Desert Regional 2 Tournament in Prescott earlier this month.
“Placing first at regionals certainly gives us a lot of confidence,” he explained. “To not just win, but to also defeat the defending champs from Arizona State University the way we did, really helps us mentally going forward.”
While the Lopes have high expectations for themselves this time around, Wasson wants to make sure his players keep their collective perspective.
“One of the biggest obstacles that they will have to overcome is putting unnecessary pressure on themselves,” he explained. “If they just go out and play the way they can, it will all be fine.”
Luckily for Wasson, experience outshines expectations, and the Lopes have plenty of experience.
“We have six players from last year, and one that competed in the fall, and it’s really good to have experience like this under our belts to help take a lot of the pressure away.” Wasson explained. “Over the past six months, I’ve really noticed that this team seems to have bonded a lot, not just on the course together, but also through activities outside of golf. This will really help them to be able to lean on one another.”
The Lopes’ eight players will be teeing off in the first four sets of tee times to begin the tournament Saturday along with the eight players from 3rd-ranked University of Florida. The Lopes’ Joey Russo-who won the Desert Regional by four strokes-and Jordan Yamamoto will be in the first foursome. The two-day, 36-hole tournament will conclude Sunday.