The Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's golf team comes into the 2001 campaign intent on making school history. Several factors have the Cougars geared up for a successful year.
First, MVNC put together an outstanding fall season earlier this year. The Cougars finished as the runner-up to defending NAIA national champion Malone College at the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament. The team also placed third at the Malone Invitational behind North Greenville (S.C.) College and the host Pioneers, ranked first and second respectively in the 2001 NAIA preseason poll. For its efforts, MVNC earned a #22-ranking in the preseason poll - the second-highest ranking in school history.
Another key factor in the optimistic outlook for the Cougars is the solid group of veteran players that make up the team's roster. Head coach Mike O'Hara, who is entering his sixth season at MVNC and has a 408-167-2 overall record, returns four varsity performers from a year ago.
"We are very anxious to start our season," said O'Hara. "We return four solid varsity performers, and with the addition of four freshmen and two sophomore transfers, we expect to make an impact on the national golf scene."
Leading the way will be the team's lone senior, Matt Durst. Durst is a four-year starter and three-year captain from Westerville, Ohio. He was named to the American Mideast Conference Team last season, and he also earned NAIA and NCCAA Academic All-American honors.
Sophomore Chad Gress from Coshocton, Ohio, returns after a very strong rookie campaign that saw him win the Shawnee State University Invitational and earn American Mideast Conference honors. He also had a very solid fall season and was the individual champion at the Malone Invitational.
Junior Todd Mazur returns after lettering his previous two seasons. The native of Grafton, Ohio, has changed his grip and retooled his putting stroke, and he closed out the fall season with a strong performance at the Powerade Fall Collegiate Classic.
Junior Tim Hirschy from Hudson, Ohio, returns after a solid sophomore year. He led the team at the Malone Invitational last year, and he is expected to be a varsity contributer again in 2001.
Competition for the fifth and final spot on the varsity squad will be hotly contested among an outstanding crop of new players. Freshmen Nathanael Petry and Brian Bumgarner, along with sophomore transfer Kyle McColly, will battle to see who will play in each tournament. Petry (Uhrichsville, Ohio) and Bumgarner (Westerville, Ohio) were both members of their respective All-Ohio teams as seniors. Meanwhile, McColly (Upper Sandusky, Ohio) was the medalist for the team during fall qualifying.
Rounding out the golf squad will be sophomores Jonathan Tingen (Chester, Virginia) and Ben Sharrock (Mt. Gilead, Ohio), and freshmen Brandon Kenney (Hudson, Ohio) and Mike Crider (Troy, Ohio).
"I feel that if this team plays to its potential we can contend for our first conference title," said O'Hara. "We also have the ability to qualify for the NAIA national tournament if we continue to work hard and improve throughout the season."
The Cougars will get the season under way on March 15 when the team travels to Brooksville, Florida, for a week of qualifying rounds at World Woods Golf Club. Then, MVNC will return north to open the season at the Glenville State (W.V.) College Invitational on March 22. The team is slated to play in eight regular-season tournaments.