For only the second time in the program's history, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's golf team has earned a spot in the NAIA National Tournament field.
The Cougars (75-16), who have been ranked throughout the season in the NAIA national poll, earned an at-large berth in the 2001 NAIA National Tournament that consists of 27 teams (14 region winners and 13 at-large berths) and six individual qualifiers.
The tournament will take place May 22-25 at Isleta Eagle Golf Course in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 27-hole course, which was built in 1996, is the home of the Southwestern Junior Classic of the PGA Junior Series. The New Mexico Open was also held on the course that features a championship tee yardage of 7,538 yards.
MVNC, which qualified for the NAIA National Tournament previously in 1994, averaged a school-record 306 strokes per 18 holes as a team this season. The Cougars won three tournaments and finished as the runner-up at four other tournaments including the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament in the fall.
"We are very excited about receiving a bid into the national tournament," said MVNC head coach Mike O'Hara, who has led the Cougars to a 483-183 record over the past six seasons. "It is very rare for teams from the north to get at-large berths, and we want to show that we deserved this one."
"This (reaching the national tournament) has been a goal of our team from the beginning of the season," O'Hara added. "It is a validation for our program and the players for all the hard work that they have put in this year."
MVNC is led by sophomore Chad Gress (75.7 strokes per 18 holes), who will represent the Cougars in the NIKE long drive contest on Monday during the tournament's practice round. Sophomore Brian Bumgarner (76.8), senior Matt Durst (77.2), junior Todd Mazur (77.4), and freshman Nathanael Petry (78.0) round out the rest of the team that will compete for the NAIA national title. Junior Tim Hirschy (80.0) will also make the trip as an alternate.