Golf team sets high goals for 2017

by Sports Editor Jacob Cole

New golf head coach Cullen Carstens and the North Alabama golf team have high expectations to start the 2017 campaign.

Carstens took over after former coach Jason Vaughn resigned. Carstens brings experience as he was an assistant at Oklahoma State and Jacksonville State.

Carstens said the move has been positive, and he is ready for the season to begin.

“I feel very fortunate to have the chance to be the head coach here at UNA, and everyone I’ve met at the university has been very kind and gracious,” Carstens said. “It’s always a bit stressful getting settled in a new place, but now that school has started and the guys are back in town, I’m excited to get after it and get the fall season going.”

The Lions lost their top three golfers, but the Bushnell Golfweek Division II Coaches Poll ranked the Lions seventh in the nation to start the year. The Lions received 270 points in the first ranking. Gulf South Conference rival West Florida is ranked No. 2 in the poll.

Fourteen of the top 25 teams are from the South/Southeast super region, making UNA’s road to the championship a more difficult one. Carstens said being ranked high is great, but it should only give the Lions motivation.

“Starting off ranked seventh in the first pre-season poll is a great compliment to the success this program had on a national level last year,” Carstens said. “I think it’s a big deal only in the sense that it shows how highly UNA golf is respected by our peers through the country, but it doesn’t change the focus or commitments we have improving every day as a team.”

Carstens said he wants last year’s final match loss to help the Lions’ golf team improve this fall season and beyond.

“Coming so close to making match play at the National Championship, I know that left our guys hungry to get back there again this year,” Carstens said.

Carstens said the first meeting went well and the team is ready to go. The Lions also return sophomore Eli Hodges and redshirt junior Aaron Jackson from last year’s team that just missed the national championship cut.

UNA added three freshmen to aid the team in the coming year, as well. UNA started its season Sept. 18-19 in Tampa, Fla. at the Griffin Classic. The team finished the invitational in 11th place.