Last October, Georgia Northwestern Bobcats golf team was just nine holes away from capturing the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) National Championships as they held the lead after 27 holes at the Blue Course on the Penn State University campus.
It was setting up to be a storybook finish for a program that been forced to undergo a year-long rebuild following an NJCAA Division III runner-up finish two years prior.
However, the Hollywood ending wasn’t in the cards as a couple of miscues and bad breaks down the stretch derailed the Bobcats’ title dreams.
It also fueled the fire for another title run this time around and judging from the Bobcats’ initial outing of the 2018 fall season, it could be a very special season for the Navy-and-Silver.
Georgia Northwestern opened with rounds of 288 and 289 at the LaFayette Golf Course last week in their first 36-hole match of the year – a 42-stroke victory over Cleveland (Tenn.) State.
"These guys have worked so hard and I'm very excited about this team," head coach Eddie Jackson said. “These guys are consistently good and this team has a shot at doing something special.
“We've been practicing for a couple of weeks now. You compare them to last year's team that finished fourth at Nationals and I think we might be a little bit better in the early stages than we were last year. I'm really excited about this group.”
Cole Roberts served as team captain last year and has been voted team captain again this year. The ex-Northwest Bruin has the top scoring average among the players thus far.
“He plays very solidly and I think he’ll have a chance to go on and play at the next level once he's finished here,” Jackson explained.
The Bobcats’ other returner from last year, Sonoraville alum Lane Strickland, is running neck-and-neck with Roberts in the early going.
“He’s just steady,” Jackson added. “He's already been looked at by a couple of other four-year schools and I‘m excited for him.”
The team will be rounded out by Jackson’s freshman recruiting class of Noah Hankins (Trion), Ryan Redd (Sonoraville) and Spencer Alexander (North Murray).
“Noah just has a wealth of ability,” Jackson continued. “He's done really well in qualifying were excited for him. He won the region his senior year and was part of a state championship team (at Trion) a couple years ago.
“Ryan is also right up there near the top of our scoring averages. I think he can be a diamond in the rough. He's a really long hitter and he's got a pretty good short game, so we're excited about what he can bring to the table. And then you have Spencer hanging in there. He’s got a really good work ethic and I really like that about him.”
Jackson said the team’s strength would be in its consistency.
“This is not a team that's going to go out and shoot a bunch of low, low scores, but this group is pretty steady,” he added. “They can shoot right around 72 to 74 every time out and that's what wins in college golf.”
Georgia Northwestern will have a couple more dual matches and two warm-up tournaments as they look to qualify for the USCAA National Championships back at Penn State in early October and Jackson said motivation wouldn’t be an issue.
“We're very motivated, Lane and Cole especially,” Jackson continued. “They got a taste of it last year and we talk about it often, about how close they came. I think it's motivating them. We talk about it every time we meet. That's ultimately our goal and I think it's on all of our minds.”