MCC golfers have lofty goals for NJCAA tournament

The McCook Community College golf team will compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament for the third time in the past four years. The Indians return to the course the team played at in 2016 – the Duran Golf Club, regarded as one of the best courses in Florida, Duran Golf Club in Viera, Florida,

“Our goal is for the team to finish in the top five,” said MCC Coach Tyler Loop. “From a skill level we have the players with the tools to do that but it would take four days of us playing the best golf we’ve ever played.”

The one area the team needs to improve on to do well in Florida is the short game. That’s been one of the focuses since the team received the at-large bid several weeks ago.

“It’s a Bermuda grass, pine trees, a lot of water,” Loop said. During that 2016 visit, the team had difficulties putting and they’ll focus on getting used to those greens with a couple days of practice before play begins May 14.

According to its website, what singles out Duran Golf Club from other golf facilities in the area is the pristine 18-hole Championship Course, and the award winning – World Class Development Center, which offers the largest and most comprehensive practice facilities in the area. The facility includes an expansive practice range, short game area, and the popular nine-hole “Par 3 Course” that encircles the practice facility.

Duran Golf Club opened in 2005, Lewis “Chip” Powell designed an 18-hole, par 72 champion course out of a lush sod farm full of mild mounding, undulating greens and sweeping doglegs. The signature 18th hole at Duran Golf Club is a par 4, 460-yard dogleg left that wraps around a sparkling lake.

For the Indians, the path to this year’s national tournament appearance was quite different from last year. MCC and Eastern Wyoming battled week-to-week, hole-to-hole before the Indians pulled it out on the final green to edge the Lancers in the season-long team standings by a single point.

This season Eastern Wyoming enjoyed a dominating fall and while the Indians made a brief push winning the first two tournaments to start the spring schedule March 22 in Lamar, Colo., and March 29 at Heritage Hills in McCook, but the Lancers ran the table for the final four tournaments and walked away with the district title.

“We put everything into winning districts last year and went into nationals maybe too content,” Loop said. “This year I think we have the mentality that we have a lot left in the tank and understand what it’s going to take to have a better showing at Nationals.”

This year the Indians received the at-large bid to represent District 1, which includes Region IX and Region I (Arizona). In addition to the two region champs, three schools are selected based on seasonal scoring averages.

The Lancers are ranked 18th in the latest NJCAA Division I men’s top 20 golf rankings. MCC ranked four spots outside the top 20.

Sophomore Cameron Lampe (Windsor, Colo.) finished second in the individual player standings this year with a scoring average of 73.2. Sophomore Ronnie Quick (London, England) was fifth with a 75.5 scoring average.

Freshman Chesney Tatman (North Platte) had a 77.7 scoring average this year. KC Carlson, freshman from Delta, Colo., had a 77.8 scoring average, Sophomore Graham Gaspard (Breckenridge Colo.) had a 78.4 scoring average. Freshmen Trevor Oberg (McCook) had an 81.4 average and sophomore Brady Wonderly (Benkelman) had an 86.8 scoring average.

“This is a great group of guys – maybe the most talented we’ve had here but we just haven’t demonstrated that on a consistent basis especially this semester, but the work-ethic, the ability and the mental toughness are all there,” Loop said.

The national tournament is a four-day, 72-hole tournament starting Tuesday.