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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

By Bethany Bradsher

Golfers aim for NCAA regional spot

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Press McPhaul
(ECU SID Photo)
David Watkins
(ECU SID Photo)


  1. East Tennessee
  2. Wake Forest
  3. Clemson
  4. East Carolina
  5. Charleston Sou.
  T. Liberty
  7. Jacksonville
  8. Jacksonville St.
  9. Winthrop
10. Idaho
11. Old Dominion
12. Kentucky
  T. USC-Upstate
14. Georgia State
15. Murray State


Bradsher: Golfers aim for NCAA regional spot
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O'Brien: Right man in right place at right time
BVL Audio: Billy Godwin & "No. 23" Austin Homan
BVL: Herd hammers Pirates 100-49
O'Brien: Mea culpa for poor choice of words
BVL Audio: Ruffin McNeill on Signing Day
Myatt: ECU's recruiting class gets 'Ruff' love
BVL: ECU Football Recruiting Thumbnails
BVL: Abrams shines but Pirates lose
Bailey: Expectations high as first pitch nears

The East Carolina men’s golf team plans to be in contention for every tournament this spring, no matter how deep the field may be.

To test that goal right out of the chute, the golfers traveled to Ponte Vedra Beach, FL to play at the vaunted Sawgrass TPC course against competition that included host Jacksonville University, Clemson, Wake Forest, Kentucky and 10 other teams.

When that first spring tournament wrapped up on Tuesday, the Pirates were fourth in the team competition, giving head coach Press McPhaul an indication that his golfers can bear out the trend they started in the fall season, when they placed first out of 15 schools at the Mizuno Savannah Intercollegiate in Savannah, GA.

“The schedule is a little bit of an upgrade for us,” said McPhaul, in his third year at the helm of the team. “We’ve got a chance, if we play good this spring, to go to the regionals for the first time. Part of that is because we have a nice schedule, but it’s really more about us. We have to go out there and play close to our potential.”

For the Pirates to have a shot at their goal of an NCAA Regional, they will look to golfers like David Watkins to set the pace. Just a sophomore, Watkins was named Conference USA Golfer of the Week twice in the fall, and he was the overall champion of the Mizuno Savannah Intercollegiate.

Watkins is the kind of hard worker that coaches want to clone and fill a team with, McPhaul said, and he is relentless about working on the aspects of his game that hinder excellence.

“He’s a serious minded, hardworking kid, and he never changes,” McPhaul said. “Every day he’s always the same. He never really deviates from a plan. He’s always ready to work.”

A sophomore from Hamlet, Watkins had a teachable moment last year when ECU physical therapy professor Walt Jenkins came to analyze his swing and recommended that he start a regimen of exercises designed to strengthen the muscles that would allow him to stay in his stance longer and complete his rotation.

“I’ve been working real hard to strengthen that part, and it’s paying off,” Watkins said, “Now I’m able to stay in my posture throughout my swing and not come out of it.”

To illustrate Watkins’ perseverance, McPhaul tells a story of the final round in Savannah, the tournament where Watkins placed first out of 60 golfers. As he finished the final hole, Watkins still wasn’t sure whether he had the title in hand, but he knew he had played well.

He walked off the green looking determined, and the first thing he said when he saw McPhaul was, “We’ve got something we need to work on.”

His coach smiled and encouraged him to take just a few minutes to celebrate his triumph before moving on to the next task.

The spring schedule, which will give Watkins and his teammates a chance to reach their postseason goal, includes tournaments in Wilmington, Raleigh and Greenville, SC, as well as the River Landing Intercollegiate in Wallace, which ECU will co-host with UNC-Wilmington. For the past several years the Pirates have hosted a home tournament at Ironwood, but this year the women’s team will host the NCAA East Regional there in early May.

After a fall marked by some bright spots and a stretch of winter weather that sent them indoors, the Florida trip seemed like a good omen to the Pirates, who are anxious to put their skills to the test against any field a tournament could offer.

“I think everybody’s excited about playing this week,” Watkins said before the tournament at TPC Sawgrass. “I think everybody’s been real motivated at practice and everybody has worked really hard.”

East Tennessee won the team competition, followed by Wake Forest, Clemson and ECU. Host Jacksonville finished 7th, Old Dominion was 11th and Kentucky tied for 12th in the 15-team field.

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher Archives

02/10/2010 02:36 AM

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