Men’s golf raising bar for success

McLeod Brown | Sports Editor

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The UNC Wilmington men’s golf team has emerged as one of the school’s premier programs in recent years, capturing their third straight CAA title, while also advancing to the NCAA Regionals for the fourth time in a row last season.


Now that they’ve staked their claim as one of the top teams in the conference and a staple in the NCAA Regional rounds, the Seahawks are ready to elevate their game and take the next step to improving the program’s record.


“It’s just the guy buying into the system,” said coach Matt Clark. “They have certain expectations and, within those expectations, they’ve created a structure of belief and accountability of each other. They expect to win the conference championship; they expect to get to the NCAAs, so therefore they’ve worked hard all throughout the year because they know it’s not going to be given to them. Nothing in life is given to you. You’ve got to put the hard work in.”


One of the keys to the Seahawks’ success this season will be the experience carried over from last year. The team only lost one senior from last year’s squad in Thomas Bass, while they have added three freshmen.

However, the core of the team lies in the seniors on this year’s team: Payne McLeod, Ryan Nagy, Stefan Brewer, and Josh Woodfox.


McLeod returns to the Seahawks looking to end his highly successful collegiate career on a high note. The Reidsville, NC native has become one of the program’s top performers in his three seasons on the squad, from capturing the CAA Rookie-of-the-Year award his freshman year to winning the CAA Golfer-of-the-Year, becoming CAA champion (only the fifth UNCW player to win the championships tournament), and garnering First-Team All-CAA honors last season.


McLeod has also entrenched himself as one of UNCW’s greats as well, holding the all-time school record with a 72.95 stroke average, while currently placing fourth in program history with 13 top-10 finishes.

Beginning the new season, Clark expects more of the same from the senior.


“Payne’s goal this year is conference player of the year,” Clark said. “Unfortunately for him, he’s not the only person in the conference or on this team that has that goal. I think he’s really motivated, but I also think that motivation has carried over to the other guys. I’m expecting Payne to have another great year. He’s got a great personality for golf, he’s got a great golf game, and he’s got a great burning desire within, so I think he’s going to have a great season and I think the guys are going to rally around him from that and keep competing with him weekly.”


To advance past the NCAA Regionals, though, the Seahawks will need other members of the team to perform to their potential, as well.

This includes the senior Nagy, whom was named CAA Golfer-of-the-Week after placing 13th at the Tar Heel Intercollegiate on September 14-15, the Seahawks’ first tournament of the fall season.


Redshirt senior Stefan Brewer is also expected to be a top contributor for the Seahawks this season after finishing ninth at the Rees Jones Invitational last week. His performance, along with McLeod’s second place finish, helped propel UNCW to a fourth place finish in the tournament.


“I think that’s what’s going to get us there is leadership and belief,” Clark said. “As long as those seniors stay committed to the belief system we have in place, they keep working hard, they continue to share stories and experiences with the freshmen, and then the freshmen are willing to accept and gain knowledge from them, we have a chance to have a pretty good year. It’s still early, it’s tough to tell how things are going to play out, but when you have four seniors in any sport, you have chance to be good, especially when they’re leaders.”


The Seahawks still have a long way to go before the conference tournament and, possibly, the NCAAs, having only played half of their fall schedule so far.


While their performance in recent years has entrenched them as one of the CAA’s top programs, Clark knows there is still plenty his team can do to fully realize their potential.


“Really in the fall I try to just let them play golf and I try to do a lot of evaluating, a lot of watching, to see what’s going on in their game,” Clark said. “We’re not going to do anything special these next few weeks. We’re going to keep talking about evaluating, keep talking about believing, and keep talking about making birdies.”