By Jill Stinson/Assistant sports editor
The men’s golf team, which is coming off a first-place finish at the El Diablo Intercollegiate Tournament in Citrus Springs, Fla., last weekend, is hoping to make it two in a row. The Colonels are preparing to play host to their annual EKU Spring Invitational this weekend. The tournament will take place Friday and Saturday at Eastern’s Arlington Golf Center.
“We’re coming off a good win and our guys are eager to play against this field,” said head coach Pat Stephens.
The Colonels placed second out of 15 teams in this tournament last spring. The men have never finished lower than third in this tournament. They also finished first in their home tournament this fall.
After taking first place in Florida last weekend, the Colonels are 77th in the top 100 of NCAA golf teams nationwide, according to golfstats.com.
The team to watch in this tournament will be OVC rival Austin Peay State University. APSU won the Spring Invitational last year and the OVC title the past three years. The Govs are just behind the Colonels at 81st in top 100 teams nationwide and placed second place in The Big Red Classic last week.
“Our guys all want to defend our turf,” Stephens said.
While APSU will be the Colonels’ fiercest competitor, APSU individuals will also be at the top when the teams hit the links. Senior Matt Gallant and freshman Chris Barron should challenge Eastern seniors Brandon Brown, Patrick Williams and Drew Alexander.
“Brandon hadn’t played up to his level of play but did last weekend,” Stephens said. “I also expect Patrick to play well because he has played really consistent in the fall and spring along with Drew, who is playing the best golf he’s played since he’s been at Eastern.”
Conference foe Tennessee State is also a team the Colonels will have to overcome. TSU beat Samford earlier this spring.
Although they will tee off on their home turf this weekend, the men’s golf team picked up their first win of the spring season at El Diablo last Saturday and Sunday. They shot a final-round total of 299 for a 54-hole tally of 891, completing the tournament 11 strokes ahead of second-place squads South Florida and Wichita State. The Colonels led by only nine strokes after their first day of play before extending their lead in the final round.
“The difference in this tournament was staying focused,” Stephens said. “We stayed with our game plan and remained patient.”
Brown, who competed in the NCAA regional last year, took home first-place honors. He posted a three-round total of 213, eight better than his closest competitor. Brown turned in a final-round score of 70, his lowest of the event, to secure the win. The win was also the first individual title for Brown since coming to Eastern last year.
Williams also registered a top-10 finish in the tournament by shooting a 54-hole total of 225, tying him for ninth place, after shooting a final-round 76.
Alexander barely missed a top-10 finish with a three-round total of 226. Alexander carded a final round of 77, leaving him one shot out of a ninth-place tie with Williams.
Josh Crutcher finished in 20th place after completing the final round in 76 strokes for a three-round total of 228, and Tyler Cain finished in 69th place with a three-round total of 240.
The win is the first for the team since winning the UL Cardinal Invitational in September. The same five guys will compete for the team title this weekend; however, all of the men’s golf team will compete as individuals.
“The strength of our team is experience,” Stephens said. “We have guys who have been in situations like these before and know what to expect.”
The Colonels hope to stay at the top of their games before heading into OVC tournament play at the end of the semester. Eastern is on track to do better than it did last year with the same group, according to Stephens.