The Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's golf team finished the 2002 season with another winning year as the Cougars capped off the campaign with a runner-up finish at the American Mideast Conference/NAIA Region IX Tournament to finish the year 58-32-1.
MVNC, which was coming off a 12th-place finish at the NAIA National Tournament in 2001, came into the season with high expectations as all but one player returned from last year's team. However, the year got off to a slow start after a disappointing fall season that included a seventh-place finish at the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament.
With the fall season behind them, the Cougars looked to start fresh in the spring as the team traveled to Palm Coast, Florida, for practice rounds at the Matanzas Woods Golf Course - the site of the 2002 NAIA National Tournament.
Following a week in Florida, MVNC returned north to begin its season. After a seventh-place finish at the Malone College Invitational where sophomore Brian Bumgarner led the way with a 151, the Cougars claimed their only tournament title of the year by winning the Shawnee State University Invitational with a tournament-record 294. Junior Chad Gress beat Bumgarner on the third playoff hole to earn medalist honors for the fifth time in his college career as both players finished with an even-par 72.
Gress continued to play well at the next tournament as he finished fifth out of 123 golfers and was named to the All-Tournament Team with a 154 at the Southeastern Kentucky Intercollegiate Invitational as MVNC finished tied for seventh out of 22 teams. Meanwhile, the Cougars' "B" Team was in action at the Urbana University Earlybird Invitational where junior Joel Meeks earned medalist honors with an even-par 72.
MVNC returned to the Urbana University Invitational the following week where the Cougars finished as the tournament runner-up with a 607. Gress finished fourth individually with a 148 as he was named to the All-Tournament Team.
After a fourth-place finish at the Walsh University Invitational where Bumgarner led the way with a 151, MVNC finished fourth at the team's own invitational as the Cougars carded a 615. Senior Todd Mazur led the way with a 148, while sophomore Scott Snyder posted a 151 as the low man on the "B" Team.
Then, MVNC closed out the regular season with a pair of tournaments. At the Cedarville University Invitational, the Cougars finished third as Gress tied for the individual lead at 148, but lost on the first playoff hole to finish as the runner-up. The following week, the team placed fifth at the Otterbein College Invitational as Mazur shot a 153 to finish fourth individually.
With the regular season behind them, the Cougars turned their attention to the American Mideast Conference/NAIA Region IX Tournament as MVNC attempted to qualify for the NAIA National Tournament for the second straight year. Despite a valiant effort, the Cougars fired a 926 to finish nine shots behind champion Walsh. Sophomore Nathanael Petry paced MVNC with a 225 as he finished as the individual runner-up at 225 - one shot off the lead. Petry and Bumgarner both earned All-AMC honors with their finishes.
Although the season had come to an end for the team, Bumgarner advanced to the NAIA National Tournament in Florida as a result of being an NAIA First Team All-American in 2001. He finished the three-day event with a 261 as he became the first MVNC golfer to ever play in two straight national tournaments.
"When you look at our season, some people would see it as a disappointment from a year ago," said head coach Mike O'Hara. "However, I felt like we really improved in some ways, and it was a good year. The cold, rainy weather definitely factored into our play, and our conference has become a lot more competitive from top to bottom. I was really pleased with the way that the guys carried themselves throughout the year. They represented MVNC very well."
Individually, Gress was selected as the team's Most Valuable Player, while Petry was named as the Cougar Award recipient. Hirschy was also chosen as an NAIA and NCCAA All-America Scholar-Athlete.
With the nucleus of the team returning for 2003, the future of the MVNC golf program looks very bright.