By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
Earlier this month, the Grand Canyon University Club Golf team found themselves atop the National Collegiate Club Golf Association (NCCGA) Preseason Poll.
And for good reason.
After setting a strong standard for the future of the program by winning their first-ever national title at last April’s NCCGA National Championships, the Lopes began their defense of it this past weekend by dominating the first NCCGA Regional of the fall season. The Lopes’ A team finished a whopping 33 strokes ahead of the next closest team, the Lopes’ B team, by clinching their second straight regional title at Palm Valley Golf Club in Goodyear. The GCU B team narrowly held off the Sun Devils of Arizona State University by a two-stroke margin to secure second place.
According to Lopes Head Coach John Wasson, much of the Lopes success can be traced back to last April.
“The championship experience last season was immeasurably important in terms of the team’s play over the weekend,” said Wasson. “You could tell that having that experience and that confidence really helped to calm their nerves and keep them focused, which makes a really big difference.”
Wasson also saw that the confidence and poise awarded from a national championship traveled far beyond the individuals who were in attendance last spring.
“I definitely noticed that the composure of the team this year was different than before, and it really ran deep-all the way from the A team to the D team,” said Wasson. “Even our first-timers seemed more relaxed, since we had guys who had already been here and succeeded.”
Despite all of their recent success, the Lopes seem to be even more focused than ever before. Veteran golfer Joey Russo, who posted the best individual performance of all the golfers over the weekend (142, -2) to win his second straight regional individual title, has already noticed a difference in the team’s demeanor this year.
“A lot of our success came from having the experience of playing in nationals last year, but we’ve also continued to practice and get better-even going so far as to have little competitions within the team,” said Russo. “Even though we are a team, we still try to compete against one another on the course, and you can tell that this year is already a lot more competitive than last semester.”
Whether it’s due to the intangible of experience, the ever important presence of friendly competition, or a healthy dosage of both, one thing is clear: the Lopes are only getting started.
Interested in joining the club golf team? Contact the coach to learn more!