By Jim Riggs
The host team for the the NJCAA Division III National Golf Championships on the Lake Course at Chautauqua Golf Club is suddenly not a team.
Of the 12 teams scheduled to play in the event Tuesday through Friday, the Jayhawks were one of three squads that would have had only four golfers instead of five, which meant they would not be able to discard a score each day. However, on Wednesday coach Ryan Jones discovered he no longer had four golfers, but only three.
That meant the Jayhawks would not complete as a team and instead, Chad Van Every, Cory Rodgers and Shane Bucklin, all freshmen, were to compete as individuals. Sophomore Christian Pickert was going to be the fourth JCC golfer, but he was not going to be participating.
However, on Saturday morning, Jones found out he no longer had three golfers, but only two. Bucklin suffered a hand injury and will not be able to play in the nationals.
Playing with only two golfers is something new for Jones. Just before the season began, his roster of eight dropped to only three because of injuries and work commitments. So for the first few invitationals, JCC had only three golfers, Van Every, Rodgers and Pickert, and couldn’t record a team score. Bucklin was added to the roster later and the Jayhawks finished out the season as a team with four.
Then last week they were back to three again and now two.
That drops the total in the field to 77 golfers – 25 individuals and 52 members of teams.
Missing from the field is the defending champion, Vincennes University from Vincennes, Ind.
JCC finished third in the 2013 tournament, that was cut to 54-holes after the third round was rained out. The Jayhawks shot a 297 in the first round, their best national round ever, to lead by six. After a 309 in the second round for a 606 36-hole total, JCC led by one over Vincennes. In the final round, the Jayhawks shot 309 to finish third. Vincennes shot 303 to win the title and Sandhills CC from Pinehurst, N.C., finished second.
Sandhills is back this year.
There are no returnees from that 2013 JCC squad, that had a first- and second-team NJCAA All-American. The only person from JCC involved with national-tournament experience is Jones, a 2002 Pine Valley graduate who played in the 2005 tournament as a sophomore for the Jayhawks. And he was an assistant coach for the JCC when Ben Lindquist coached the team in the 2011.
The two Jayhawks are playing for the first time, so Jones has no expectations for his inexperienced duo.
”At least for Cory and Chad, they’ll have a shot at playing in it next year,” Jones said. ”So for this year they’re gaining a little experience.”
He added, ”Those two guys are capable and this is a course they play all the time. I expect them at the end to be getting one of those top 18 flags (as an NJCAA All-American).”
And how do they do that?
”It’s all about making pars,” Jones said. ”You just make some pars and limit your mistakes and those three guys definitely have a chance of snagging one of those flags.”
He is sending them out with no target scores.
”I try to tell them go out there and try not to think about the score, but think about shots,” Jones said. ”You start putting numbers in their heads and that puts a little pressure on them to do that.”
By playing on their home course, the Jayhawks have had as much practice as possible since the Region 3 Division III Tournament was held nearly a month ago.
”I’d like to be out there everyday, but I know that’s not possible,” Jones said about his golfers’ practice schedule prior to last week. ”A lot of these guys start their summer jobs.”
But at least they’ve had plenty of practice at a big change for this year’s tournament. The 499-yard, par-5 third hole has a new blue tee that was built farther back and it now is 535 yards.
”All they’re doing is taking that tee and making it a three-shot hole,” Jones said.
In the past, reaching the third green in two shots was no problem for a majority of the field.
The Jayhawks will be starting on No. 10 for Tuesday’s first round at possibly the following times: Rodgers 9 a.m. and Van Every 9:08 a.m.
Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Md.: Ryan McVey, Tad Dinan, Cheuk, Jack Ma, Jake Manley, Christian Furniss.
Burlington County College, Pemberton, N.J.: Jim Kramarski, Corey Johnson, Rob Singer, Joseph. Megarariotis.
College Of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Ill.: Xavier Owens, Alec Meyer, Jordan Yamamoto, Justin Harrington, Matthew Hay.
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cincinnati, Ohio: Matt Nickoson, Taylor Suggs, Austin Kyle, John McQueen, Jeff Wray.
Community College of Rhode Island, Warwick, R.I.: Steven Letterle, Zachary Sullivan, Robert Gallucci, Gina Bartolotta, Christopher Lussier.
County College of Morris, Randolph, N.J.: Chris Budd, Erik Diamond, Damian Garrett, Travis Sackman.
Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Fergus Falls, Minn.: Brandon Sletmoen, Jared Cowden, Rob Goff, Brady Robertson, Matt Wagner.
Monroe Community College, Rochester, N.Y.: Curran O’Brien, Kyle Bromley, Chris Maloney, Zach Tuttle, Tom Rossini.
Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, N.Y.: Gus Gosson, Mike Marshall, Bryan Semple, Austin Chandler, Cody Nellis.
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, N.Y.: Andrew Owad, Bryan Morin, Anthony Esposito, Anthony Fanara.
Sandhills Community College, Pinehurst, N.C.: Nick Thompson, Ediz Kemaloglu, Cody Roberts, Caleb Chavis, Alex Austin.
Bucks County Community College, Newtown, Pa.: Dominic Foti, Ryan Skierski.
Butler County Community College, Butler, Pa.: Stefan Carlsson.
Camden County College, Blackwood, N.J. : Peter DeStefano.
Delaware Tech-Owens, Georgetown, Del.: Remy Haynes.
Garrett College, McHenry, Md.: David Hall.
Genesee Community College, Batavia, N.Y: Adam Baumeister, Chris Mandia.
Jamestown Community College, Jamestown, N.Y: Cory Rodgers, Chad VanEvery.
Jefferson Community College, Watertown, N.Y: Chadd Call.
Mesabi Range College, Virginia, Minn.: Jay Jensen.
Niagara County Community College, Sanborn, N.Y.: Will Lawton.
Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, Pa.: Jesse Bingaman.
Rochester Community and Technical College, Rochester, Minn: Garret Stensgard, Joel Van Hazinga.
Rockland Community College, Suffern, N.Y.: Daniel Tagle, Benedict Tagle.
Sullivan County Community College, Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.: Richard Elliott.
SUNY Ulster, Stone Ridge, N.Y.: Chris Moruzzi, Connor Stengler.
Tompkins Cortland Community College, Dryden, N.Y.: Kyle Shawn.
Westmoreland County Community College, Youngwood, Pa.: Tyler Robbins, Austin Reay, Jeremy Hauser.