NewsMVNU Golfers Prepare for Trip to NAIA National Tournament
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - For the second time in three years, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University men's golf team will take part in the NAIA National Tournament when the Cougars depart for Palm Coast, Florida, on Saturday. The tournament, which consists of 27 teams and seven individual qualifiers, will be played at the Matanzas Woods Golf Course with the first of four rounds beginning on Tuesday.
MVNU, which is ranked 23rd in the final NAIA national poll, earned the program's third trip to the national tournament by winning the NAIA Region IX Tournament by three strokes over Malone College two weeks ago at Apple Valley Golf Course in Howard, Ohio. The Cougars, who have won the last four tournaments they have played in and five tournaments total this spring, have posted a 72-16 record this spring and a 103-19 overall mark with the fall and spring seasons combined.
"Our guys have really peaked at the right time," said first-year MVNU coach Mike Meeks, who was named the American Mideast Conference Coach of the Year. "They are playing with a lot of confidence right now, and they push each other to get better."
The Cougars, whose previous best at the national tournament was a 12th-place finish in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2001, have their sights set on finishing this special season with a flourish.
"Obviously, a national championship is the ultimate goal for any team," Meeks said. "There are plenty of really quality teams at the tournament, and the course is pretty tough. However, we feel like we are capable of playing well enough to stay right in the hunt. A top-ten finish is our goal, and anything better than that will be icing on the cake."
The five members of the MVNU squad have all proven that they are capable of posting low scores as four of the five have won medallist honors this spring with the other player finishing as a runner-up.
Junior Brian Bumgarner from Westerville, Ohio, has won two tournaments this spring and two others in the fall. The former Worthington Christian High School standout was named the American Mideast Conference Player of the Year after shooting a school-record four-under-par 212 to win the AMC/NAIA Region IX Tournament. His final round score of 68 (four-under-par) was also a school record. Bumgarner (76.3 stroke average), who was an NAIA All-American in 2001 after finishing 13th at the national tournament, becomes the first Cougar golfer to play in three straight NAIA national tournaments.
Senior Chad Gress from Coshocton, Ohio, was the medallist at the Cedarville University Invitational this spring and was named to the American Mideast Conference Team. The former River View High School star was an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American in 2001 and is averaging 76.6 strokes per round this season.
Junior Nathanael Petry from Uhrichsville, Ohio, has averaged 77.2 strokes per round and won the Saint Vincent (Pa.) College Invitational. The former Claymont High School standout has also been the runner-up at two other tournaments this spring and joined Bumgarner and Gress on the American Mideast Conference Team.
Junior Scott Snyder from Marion, Ohio, also averaged 77.2 strokes and finished as the runner-up at the Saint Vincent Invitational. The former River Valley High School product was also named to two other All-Tournament Teams this spring and is an Academic All-American.
Senior Joel Meeks from Gahanna, Ohio, rounds out the five-member team with a 78.8 average. The former Gahanna-Lincoln High School standout will be playing in his third national tournament after qualifying for two JUCO national tournaments during his two years at Columbus State Community College. Meeks, who was the medallist at the MVNU Invitational this spring, will also represent the Cougars in the Long Drive Contest at this year's national tournament.
Sophomore Raynard Martin from Morgantown, West Virginia, will also make the trip as an alternate. Martin, who is a graduate of University High School, posted a 79.9 stroke average this season.
With five players capable of shooting low scores and four of them having experience playing in previous national tournaments, MVNU will look to finish strong and add an exciting closing chapter on what has been one of the best seasons in Cougar golf history.