Greener on the other side: UNCW men’s golf looks to advance further

McLeod Brown | Sports Editor

It’s business as usual for the UNC Wilmington men’s golf team as they prepare for their next run at dominance within the CAA conference.

However, after winning the conference championship for the second year in a row and advancing to the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in school history this past spring, the Seahawks are looking to push themselves even further this year.

“We’re excited to get everybody back on campus,” said head coach Matthew Clark. “Being a fall and spring sport, anytime that we’re not competing, I’m not the same person. It’ll be a fun year in that we’re returning seven of eight guys from last year’s roster. It’s nice to have that many returners. We’re really looking forward to the year.”

With the majority of last year’s NCAA regional team returning, the expectation within the team is to advance even further in this year’s tournament.

“Age is a great thing, because it gives you the opportunity to make decisions,” said Clark. “The decisions the team makes, there will have to be consequences, good and bad. If they make good decisions this year, the consequence could be that we’re playing in the NCAA finals. If they make bad decisions, this could go downhill.”

Two Seahawks earned First-Team All-CAA honors for their play last season.

Reigning CAA Player of the Year Thomas Bass star the year as the only senior on the team. Bass finished with four top-10 finishes last season and a 73.2 stroke average, tying him with junior Payne McLeod for first on the team. McLeod, the 2010-2011 CAA Rookie of the Year returns after being a major cog in the Seahawks’ conference championship last year. His best finish of the year was in a tie for eighth at the CAA Championship.

Led by five upperclassmen on the eight-man squad, Clark is confident his team has the drive to succeed this year.

“Every team is only as good as they are when they’re away from the coach,” said Clark. “A lot of times, when we control the practice, they’re going to practice really hard. They’re going to do all the right things, but it’s how hard they work when nobody is looking. It’s how many extra shots are they hitting when nobody is around. Whether it’s putting, chipping, something their struggling with. Are they willing to do that? I think they are. It’s also exciting to see that, because I think that’s what’s going to be the difference in whether the team reaches all of its goals they want to or if they reach just a little underneath that.”

The Seahawks begin play this weekend at the Tar Heel Intercollegiate. But, while they’re not looking past the competition in front of them, Coach Clark and the team already know where they want to be at the end of the year.

“When May rolls around, I want us to be coming back from regionals, ready to pack our bags and head to the finals,” said Clark. “This year the finals are in Atlanta, Georgia, and that’s our goal, to work hard all the way through the finish line. It’s easy for a lot of people, when the semester ends so much earlier and all of their friends are going elsewhere, and here I am talking about keeping them on campus for another month. It’s a foreign concept for a lot of college students but I think this group understands that this year the season ends in Atlanta, Georgia, nowhere else.”