Coming off a 33-49 campaign a year ago, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's golf team was determined that the 2000 season would be a different story.
After playing a rugged fall schedule and working hard during the winter months, all the hard work paid off for the Cougars as the team posted a 76-25 record and earned votes in several of the NAIA national polls including the final one of the year.
The season began with the annual trip to Brooksville, Florida, for a week of practice rounds at the World Woods Golf Course. Upon returning north, MVNC played in the Glenville State (WV) College Invitational and finished eighth out of 17 teams with a two-day total of 657. Sophomore Sam McGraw paced the team in that tournament by finishing 18th individually with a 159.
Next up for the Cougars was the seven-team Malone College Invitational where the team finished third with a two-day total of 625. Sophomore Tim Hirschy led the team with a 157, while McGraw, senior Steve Hesson, and sophomore Todd Mazur each shot a 158.
MVNC continued to play well as the Cougars finished second at the Shawnee State University Invitational with a team-total of 310 which was just two strokes behind the host Bears. Freshman Chad Gress earned medalist honors by firing a 74, while McGraw was runner-up medalist with a 75.
The team followed up that performance with a third-place finish out of ten teams at the Urbana University Invitational, which was played in wind gusts of nearly 50 miles per hour. Gress led the team with an 81, while McGraw carded an 83 as MVNC finished with a team-total of 334.
The Ashland University Invitational was the next tournament on the schedule for the team. The two-day event was shortened to just nine holes due to rain, and the Cougars finished seventh out of 19 teams with a team-total of 154. Gress and McGraw again led the team with a 37 and a 38 respectively.
MVNC had another good showing at the Tiffin University Invitational as the Cougars shot a 319 to finish just five strokes behind NCAA Division III nationally-ranked Ohio Wesleyan University. McGraw earned runner-up honors by firing a 75.
MVNC finished second again at the Walsh University Invitational as the team posted a two-day total of 641 out of eight teams. Hesson led the way with a 154, while Gress was right behind him with a 156.
Next up for the Cougars was their own tournament where MVNC came up just one stroke short with a season-best 608 to finish right behind Malone, ranked #4 in the NAIA at the time. Gress again led the team with a 150 to finish two strokes off the individual lead.
The Cougars followed that performance with their first tournament victory of the year as MVNC shot a team-total of 309 to outdistance the five-team field at the Cedarville College Invitational. Gress and junior Matt Durst led the team by each carding a 76.
The Cougars closed out their season at the NAIA Region IX Tournament where MVNC finished third out of nine teams with a 54-hole total of 925. The team also finished second out of the American Mideast Conference teams in the event, and Gress and Durst earned All-Conference honors with their respective scores of 224 and 228.
"This team made incredible strides from a year ago to get to the level that we were this season," said head coach Mike O'Hara. "We only changed one position in our starting line-up, so each of these players improved their games tremendously. Also, the addition of Chad (Gress) made us a better team."
The Cougars will have to replace Hesson, who will graduate, but with the addition of several top recruits and the continued improvement of the current players the future looks bright for the MVNC golf program.