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WC golfers solidify return with nationals berth

WC golfers solidify return with nationals berth

By Rick Mauch 

 The last time the Weatherford College men's golf team competed for a national championship, none of the current players had yet been born. 

For the first time since 1997, the Coyotes are among the field competing in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament. What makes this one special is this team is the first in more than two decades for the college as the program was revived and began competition this past fall. 

The tournament, held at Odessa Country Club, will be played Tuesday through Friday, May 10-13. 

"The guys earned it. They look like a completely different team from last semester," head coach Jesse Speirs said. "The hard is out of the way. Now that they've made it, they need to trust all the work they've put in over the year and enjoy the moment." 

The Coyotes have steadily improved since the season began with an eighth-place finish at the Bosque River Classic in Waco in late September. That was followed by seventh at the High Country Shootout in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and second at the University of Houston Fall Classic in Victoria in late October - with Bryce McCracken also taking the individual title with rounds of 69, 67 and 68. 

The Coyotes ended the fall by placing 14th in the NJCAA Preview Tournament - played on the same course they'll be competing on this week. Following that tournament, Speirs said that while he was pleased with the fall, the team would focus on improving in the spring and getting back to Odessa for the real national tournament…which they did. 

The spring began with a third-place finish in the Las Vegas Shootout with Samuel Benson taking top medalist honors (73-79-73). Next, the team tied for its first tournament title at the Shawnee Shootout in Oklahoma with yet another individual championship, this one by Gatlin Goad (77-72-75). 

Weatherford qualified for nationals in dramatic fashion by defeating Western Texas College in a sudden-death playoff in the second half of the Southwest Championship at Hideout Golf Club in Brownwood for the fourth and final NJCAA berth from the region. They climbed from sixth, where they stood after the first three rounds at Squaw Creek in Willow Park, by shooting a season-low of 10-under in Brownwood. 

Logan Moore led the comeback, shooting a final-round 66. That tied Chris Choi, who posted the same score in a round in New Mexico, for the low round of the season for the team. 

"The team is playing very solid, they're gaining confidence and competing against the higher ranked teams. The guys look a lot stronger mentally and physically," Speirs said. "At this point, it's more mental. If they can continue to grow and trust the work, I believe we can do something special." 

Rounding out the Coyotes' all-freshman roster are Bradley Missel and Alex Leuschner. 

Speirs wasted no time in getting the Coyotes into a competitive schedule. He believes it paid off and helped them get to Odessa. 

"I think for the first year we had a very good schedule. We had a good mix of in-conference events along with outside," he said.  Las Vegas was a great experience for the guys. Getting on a plane and teeing it up against new teams from all over I think helped the guys mature and learn how to deal with traveling and competing at a high level. 

"I am proud of the guys. We've had some ups and downs like any group, but it's only made them stronger and they've put themselves on the map," Speirs continued. "Every little thing we have worked on started coming together this semester and it showed in the second half of regionals. The guys are ready."