By Jason Finnell
Last season was possibly the best season of all time for Eastern’s men’s golf team. The Colonels won five events and placed in the top five a total of five times. Eastern ran away with its 11th OVC championship, beating Murray State by 19 shots. The win put the Colonels into the 2008 NCAA Central Regional. Eastern finished tied for 12th, three shots away from earning them a trip to the championship round. At the end of the season, the Colonels were awarded the OVC Sportsmanship Award.
Although they lost three key players from the championship team-Phil Hendrickson, Ryan Britt, and Justin Moore-the Colonels expect to reload as they work towards their 12th OVC championship banner.
Coach Pat Stephens conceded that although the team did lose key elements from last year’s team, seniors Trey Bowling and Jesse Massie help fill the holes left by graduates.
“We have guys coming back. We have young talent that I’ve recruited. So we shouldn’t miss a beat,” Stephens said.
And as this season got its start, Eastern didn’t take too long to start repeating the success of last season.
On August 15, senior Trey Bowling won one of the state’s most prestigious golf tournaments, the Kentucky Open.
Bowling entered the final day tied for first, but after the co-leader double-bogeyed the first hole, Bowling held the lead to the end. He fired a 1-under-par 71 in the final round to win by one stroke. He finished with a three-round total of 206, good for 10 under par.
Senior Shawn McConnell shot 72-72-70 to finish tied for 13th. Senior Brandon Berry shot a 75 and 67 in the first two rounds to make the cut and shot a 79 in the third round.
Jesse Massie and Corey Welch did not make the cut.
Eastern golfers have won the Kentucky Open for two consecutive years, following Hendrickson’s title in 2007.
Five seniors will lead the Colonels this season. Bowling, McConnell, Berry, Massie, and Andrew Davis comprise the most experienced team in the OVC and one of the most experienced teams in the nation.
Bowling had six top-10 finishes last season, including a first-place finish at the Morehead State Kickoff Invitational.
McConnell took a redshirt last season, but showed promise in the 2006-2007 season. He earned first-team all-OVC honors, with six top-10 finishes in the 12 events he participated in. He tied for first at the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational, carding a three-day total of 207.
Berry, who also red-shirted last year, had a pair of top-20 finishes two years ago and posted a 17th place finish at the First Energy Intercollegiate and tied for seventh at the Penn State Rutherford Intercollegiate.
Massie is expected to be a top player for the Colonels. He shot a career-best of 66 at the Fall Kickoff Invitational last year. He finished first at the BGSU John Piper Intercollegiate and Hoosier Invitational. He also placed in the top 10 in three other events.
Senior Andrew Davis fared well in the two individual tournaments he played in last year, finishing tied for eighth at the EKU Colonel Classic for his first career top-10 finish. Davis was also under par in two of the six rounds he played in.
The Colonels first tournament is the John Piper Intercollegiate, Sept. 8-9 in Bowling Green, Ohio.