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UNCW Club Golf headed to nationals

Brandon Sans, Staff Writer

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UNC Wilmington’s club golf team is heading to the National Collegiate Club Golf Association National Championships. The two-day national championship event will be held November 19-20 at Walt Disney World’s Palm and Magnolia courses in Orlando, Florida.

UNCW’s club golf team last appeared on the national level in 2009 when it took home the top prize. The program has fallen on hard times since then, something President Joseph Helmick looked to reverse when he took lead.

“When I first took over the club organization nothing was really organized, nothing was set in stone,” said Helmick. “We’re all students so it won’t always be perfect, but when I took it over, there weren’t things such as funding. Everyone paid out of pocket.”

In order to raise funds for the team to travel and participate in golf tournaments, Helmick organized the golf club’s first fundraiser tournament last semester. The event proved to be a loud success.

“We had over 20 sponsors,” he said. “Our main goal was to have a source of revenue for the club that we could operate off so people weren’t paying everything out of pocket. We raised 3,000 dollars. It gave us a good base to operate off of for this semester.”

Aside from fundraising for the team, there were numerous ways the program could grow.

“We wanted to get more people involved in golf and be more competitive,” Melnick said. “There are so many kids that don’t know if they can play golf or not. This was the first year we went to the involvement fair and that sparked a lot of interest.”

The involvement fair was the first sign that things were beginning to improve. Prior to this semester, the club team’s roster number capped out at 25. By having a booth, the club received over a hundred signatures of people interested in joining the team.

“My head kind of exploded, to be honest with you,” said Helmick.

The roster ultimately rounded out at 35. The larger number allowed UNCW to open a second team.

A drawback of fielding two teams meant not everyone would qualify for the national tournament. However, that did not leave anyone dismayed. On the contrary, it brought more excitement toward the future.

“As the team as a whole is concerned I think it’s exciting stuff. We’re really getting put on the map,” said sophomore Cole Gupton. “I think the team is really good this year. We can establish a tradition of excellence.”

Being that club sports are student-ran organizations, there are instances when students have to govern themselves in order for the team to prosper. This concept is easier said than done.

“[My strongest attribute is] trying to be a good leader to a bunch of your peers and your friends,” Gupton said. “There’s a difference between being a good friend and a good leader because being a leader means sometimes having to step on your friend’s feet for their best interest. That’s been my main struggle.”

UNCW won its first regional in September by three strokes. Even though it finished second to North Carolina by four strokes in its second regional a few weeks ago, the overall combined score between the two tournaments allowed UNCW to advance from its region to Walt Disney World.

It could be easy for a team to get caught up in the excitement of Disney-mania, but the club team is eager at work to repeat its 2009 success.

“I haven’t thought much about the trip – I’ve done more daily analytics,” said Helmick. “Seeing where we match up against other teams and stuff like that. If we’re playing our best ball, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to win it.”

Though the commitment to excellence is evident, the team understands the importance of decompressing their minds ahead of the national event.

“We’re going to leave Thursday and play a practice round Friday,” Gupton said. “That Friday we’ll go out and explore some stuff, relieve some stress, not really think about golf too much. But once Saturday and Sunday come it’ll be strictly golf oriented.”

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UNCW Club Golf headed to nationals