NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
By Bethany Bradsher
Golfers aim for NCAA regional
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(ECU SID Photo)
(ECU SID Photo)
ORDER OF FINISH
2. Wake Forest
4. East Carolina
5. Charleston Sou.
8. Jacksonville St.
11. Old Dominion
14. Georgia State
15. Murray State
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
“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.
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02/10/2010 02:36 AM