Golf team eager to begin 2015 season strong

by Student Writer Shaun Swinehart

The golf team ended the fall season with a win in the University of Illinois Springfield Tournament in Puerto Rico, earning themselves the No. 8 ranking in Division II.

With lettermen Trent Alexander, Forrest Knight, Michael Peter, and Paul McClure returning, the team plans to pick up right where they left off.

Alexander is a two-time, first-team All-GSC selection and was selected as a D-II All-American Honorable Mention in 2014.

The golf team, including senior Paul McClure, is optimistic about the upcoming spring season, he said.

“I believe that when the Gulf South Conference tournament comes around we will be more than ready,” he said. “Our expectations are to win the GSC, the region and national tournament.”

The golf team must battle the elements early on in the season, as the cold weather limits practice time. This is among coach Jason Vaughn’s main concerns, he said.

“There are a couple of teams as far North as we are, but most of them are South,” Vaughn said. “So we’re at somewhat of a disadvantage because we have this cold weather. Our first tournament is February 21-23 and it is in Savannah, Georgia.

“There are going to be many teams in the top 20 that are there, so we want to play well. But here comes this cold front so we aren’t going to get in a lot of practice.”

Vaughn said while driving tends to be easier to pick up after a gap in practice, field shots take time to redevelop and that is what the main focus of practice will be, given the right circumstances.

The golf team is taking advantage of nice weather when the opportunity arises and has ways of practicing indoors, Vaughn said.

“The biggest obstacle this season is our dedication to the game,” McClure said. “I believe we can win the national championship and raise a white banner in Flowers Hall, but we need to be more disciplined. If we don’t win the national championship this year then it’s because we didn’t work hard enough.”

The team said they expect a rusty start but want to peak at the right time to make it to nationals like they did in the fall season, winning their last tournament and second in the TVA Credit Union Invitational Oct. 21.

With 10 eligible players who could each golf at a high level, Vaughn said there is more talent, depth and experience than in the fall season and hopes this is enough to push the team over the edge and bring home a national title.

Vaughn is in his second year as the Lions head coach and said he believes this year will be better than last.

Last year the Lions finished tied with Delta State University for second in the GSC tournament and No. 9 in the NCAA D-II National Championships.

The golf team tees off for the first time this spring in Savannah, Georgia Feb. 21.

The Lions host the UNA Spring Classic March 23-24 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Muscle Shoals.

The Gulf South Conference Tournament is April 21-22 in Tunica, Mississippi.

UNA last won the GSC tournament in 2012.