NCMC recently sent three men's golfers to the 2018 NJCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship. The event was held in Foley, AL, at the Glenlakes Golf Club. The Pirates who qualified for the event were Jasper van der Zon, Lewis Hopkinson, and Scott Swayne. "Just making the event is a huge accomplishment, I don't want that to go unnoticed. Men's golf is so competitive at this level, you have to compete like crazy and earn a spot in the field, there aren't any freebies or handouts," commented Coach Craig Sager of the impressive feat by these golfers.
Jasper van der Zon led the Pirates by placing T51 in the event with a four-day score of +17. He was the lone Pirate to make the cut prior to the final day due to weather. Before that cut, Lewis Hopkinson and Scott Swayne both sat in T73 position at +19 through three rounds. "The weather forced a 54 hole cut which knocked Scott and Lewis out of the mix. It was tough to take; three shots are what they missed the cut by and it's easy to go back and find those when you recap your round. It's a good lesson to learn, a tough one, but a good one. These guys have aspirations of playing professionally and you'd much rather miss a cut when you're playing for a medal than to miss one when you're playing for a paycheck. It's hard to understand now, but they'll move past it and be better players moving forward," detailed Sager.
There were many bright spots for Pirates Golf, in just their second year of existence. "Even missing the cut, we saw several positives come from the tournament. Lewis hit is driver as well as anyone in the competition. I'm pretty sure you could point to a blade of grass 300 yards down the fairway and he'd hit it. His putter was also very good; it was the irons that let him down. Hitting greens is something that he usually excels at and he just didn't have it in the bag this week. It was tough, however it was nice to see him keep his composure and finish out the rounds with his head up. Scott put on a show with his long irons. I don't know the actual number, but I'd guess he had 20+ looks at birdie inside 10 feet over the three rounds. He was hitting good putts but the ball just wouldn't go in the hole. Bermuda grass isn't something that we're familiar with and it got the best of him on his reads. It's a game of inches, I'm guessing if he had a ruler's worth of mulligans, he would have been under par and in the mix," stated Sager.
"With Jasper being the only one to beat the cutline, I was able to spend more time with him in that final round. He didn't bring his best stuff, but he was still able to score his ball. It's the best I've ever seen him putt on what could have been the most complex greens we've seen all season. With his length he's able to really shorten up a course and take advantage of his scoring clubs. There was a tough stretch of holes on the back side that were really posing a problem to the best players. If we were able to remove those from his card, it would have been an impressive showing. At one time, I think he had something like 12 or 13 4's in a row, 5 more that's even par through 18… Still a great event and a springboard for the rest of his career as a competitive player," remarked Sager of his top finisher in the event.
With the season in the books, Coach Sager and his players have already begun to look forward to the 2018-19 season. "We're going to get better next year; we have no choice. With new District placement going into effect, we'll be with three or four of the top teams in the nation. These programs have a history of playing good golf year after year. We're bringing back a great core of returning players and adding 3 or 4 more to the mix; we'll be ready when the spring season rolls around. In addition to having talented players, we're getting smarter as a program. We're still the new kids to the scene; things like where we eat, what hotels are the best in which city, how do you pace yourself through a LONG season, etc… Next year is going to be a fun ride."
"Men's golf is a marathon. For example, Lewis played 25 competitive rounds in 14 events this year. When you combine that with a full load of classes, volunteer time, and workouts; it's a grind. Looking back on the season, we had several accomplishments. Two Academic All-Americans, one team win, one individual win, three All-Region players, two All-District players, and three National Championship Qualifiers – all in just our second season. Again, these awards are earned, the guys worked their tails off. This level of golf is hard and they stepped up to the challenge. I can't say it enough, there are no handouts in men's golf right now," concluded Sager.