Golf team on course for successful season

As the 2015-16 college golf season is about to tee off, the UNA Lions expect another good year.

Following a 2014-15 campaign that saw UNA reach its 10th straight NCAA Division II Regional, the expectations increase for a team returning six lettermen.

One of the six returners is junior Forrest Knight, who received All-American honors last season.

“I expect Forrest to have a great year,” said golf coach Jason Vaughn. “He’s a great golfer, he’s got a great head on his shoulders and he is a consistent golfer on the course.”

Another strong link returning for the Lions is senior Michael Peter, an All-GSC team selection last year.

“Michael Peter is a senior, so we’ve had talks,” Vaughn said. “He really wants to do well this year. He’s always hit the ball and put it where he wants. Course management has been the biggest thing for him. If we can get that down, I expect great things from him this year possibly as an All-American.”

Knight, who finished fourth in the NCAA Division II Golf Championships last season, said the overall team goals are bigger than individual awards.

“I expect Michael and myself to play well and have a good year, but I don’t really think about awards and that kind of stuff,” he said. “I expect to be good and win a good bit of tournaments. I expect us to win conference and make it to nationals.”

Other returners include sophomore James Medley, junior Austin Sparks, senior Jacob Stinson and senior Patrick Twesme, who will redshirt this season.

In addition to the returning golfers, the team will have new faces including transfers Will Bragwell and Paul Bloodsworth, along with freshmen Payton Massey, Parks Hartsfield and Aaron Jackson.

“I feel that (Bragwell) could be one of the guys that kind of helps round out the top five,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said he was impressed by the attitude Bloodsworth brings to the team.

“I really like Paul’s on-the-course demeanor and the way he plays,” he said. “He doesn’t get mad, he doesn’t get frustrated in the few times I’ve seen him play and even in practice.”

The veteran, Knight, believes his new teammates will be able to make an impact at some point during the season.

“I really like the new guys this year,” he said. “I feel like they can come in and contribute this year. They might not (contribute) right away, but I think they will before the season is over.”

The Lions ranked No. 17 in the Bushnell Golfweek Preseason Division II Coaches Poll behind GSC rivals West Florida and West Georgia.

“Is (the ranking) fair by our scores? Yes. Is it fair by what I feel about our team? I think we’re better than 17th,” Vaughn said. “We’ll have to see how it falls out here as the tournaments go, but we’ve got a good core with Forrest and Michael and then just putting some good pieces around them, I think we could end up having a good year.”

Agreeing with his coach, Knight said he believes it is not how they start but how they finish.

“I would say the ranking is fair based off of last year,” he said. “The preseason ranking doesn’t mean anything in the end. If we go and take care of business we will move up in the rankings.”

The UNA golf team will start their season in Georgia at the Columbus State University-hosted Cougar Invitational Sept. 21-22.