Just two years after establishing a golf program, Fayetteville Technical Community College will find itself playing for a national championship Monday.
A four-player contingent directed by coach John Michael Cole travels to Foley, Alabama, on Friday to prepare for the 2018 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Men's Golf Championship at the Glenlakes Golf Club. They'll spend two days practicing on the par 72, 6,912-yard Glenlakes layout before beginning competition in the four-round event Monday morning.
“It's pretty amazing, and something unexpected for sure,'' Cole said earlier this week. “As a first-year program we didn't have a chance to make the postseason because you have to go through all these transition requirements. We had a great team last year that could have competed as well.
“But to go through that and achieve this is pretty amazing. It's even more amazing when you consider we were down a fifth man.''
College golf teams usually consist of five players with the top four scores each round counting toward the squad's final total. But the Trojans lost their fifth player due to eligibility issues prior to the District J tournament April 23-24 at the Innsbrook Golf Course in Helen, Georgia.
Operating without the benefit of that fifth score, sophomores Tyler Fox and Andrew Moon, along with freshmen A.J. Banko and Harrison Howe were under pressure to be at their best at the District J event, where the top teams and individuals qualified for the nationals. The quartet responded with some of their best play of the season as Fox and Moon tied for medalist honors with rounds of 75. Banko (85) and Howe (86) provided strong supporting performances.
“I just told them they all had improve one, two, three shots a round and it'll make up for not having that fifth score, and that's what happened,'' Cole said. “We peaked at the right time.''
Fox (Pine Forest) and Banko (St. Pauls) are Cape Fear region high school graduates, while Moon is a transfer from Lynchburg College in Virginia. Howe is from Gastonia and was recommended to Cole by a former player.
Cole said the group isn't satisfied just reaching the nationals, it wants to excel.
“We want to get in there for a top-10 or top-five finish as a team,'' he said. “I think there are 21 teams competing, so to be in the top half of that would be great. We'll go in with the same idea that everyone needs to play two or three shots better than we have. This will be a marathon, not a sprint because it's a four-round tournament. We just have to stay sharp on the mental side and not make the small mistakes.''
Staff writer Sammy Batten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3534.