– photo courtesy of Kelly Bird
Nicole Bennett, for the Review
The men’s golf team finished in the top 20 at the NCAA Division III Championships on May 16, just two strokes behind Washingtion and Lee University.
Sophomore Joel Rychard and senior Jeff Nigro each shot 74 to improve the ’Cats’ standing from 30th to 17th.
“I think we all did outstanding at the championship,” Rychard said. “Jeff Nigro is our guy who is hilarious. I really think it is important for a team to have a guy like that.”
This year, for the first time since 1964, the ’Cats won the conference title and went to the championship. Sophomore Tyler Nelson and junior Andrew Fitch tied for 44th place and Rychard grabbed 57th place.
“My reaction when I knew we were going to nationals was pure joy and happiness,” Rychard said. “I felt like we deserved it because we had worked so hard, and I was happy we made it for the seniors to finish their career on a good note.”
The ’Cats were ranked number one last year but could not clinch the title.
Senior Kyle Henderson shot a 72 to secure the 2008 conference victory. Fitch hit his best game this season at conference with a score of 69.
“It was really nice to get over the hump and win it this year,” Henderson said. “Since this is my last year, it was even more special.”
The team said its success is a reflection of each player’s hard work. Although some players did better at conference and nationals than others, the wins leading up to the end were a result of all the men putting in their best effort.
“It is hard to say one person did the best at nationals because we have such a deep team,” Fitch said.
Winning the conference was expected by the team. head coach Greg Copeland scheduled additional tournaments to prepare the team for the stiff competition they would meet at nationals.
“We knew we were the best team and didn’t expect anything less,” Fitch said. “There was also a lot of excitement for what (winning conference) meant and the fact we were going
The seniors helped the team at the championship with Henderson placing 110th and Nigro 118th.
Henderson contributed significantly to the ’Cats successful season, proving to be a consistent team player.
Of the 11 men on the team, only five were invited to compete at the championships.
“Kevin Duerr didn’t get to go,” Henderson said. “But he was every bit a part of our success. They are going to be looking really strong
The ’Cats will lose four seniors this year: Henderson, Nigro Nick Pagenkopf and Drew Fogg.
“Overall, we had a great year and it was an honor to go over to Georgia and compete with the top teams in our division,” Rychard said. “I am very proud of our team and really feel like we accomplished some great things this year.”