The EKU men’s golf team started out the season on top after its first home tournament in nine years.
Matured and experienced, the team won the EKU Intercollegiate at the University Club at Arlington on Sunday with Junior Noah Combs finishing first overall. The Colonels beat Ohio University by 14 points, outscoring all 17 of their competitors.
Alongside Combs, Will Sallee, Billy Balsam, Jared Brown and last week’s Adidas OVC Male Golfer of the Week Erik Lindwall finished in the top 10.
“This is the first time we’ve played at home in nine years and they can maybe put too much pressure on themselves with excitement and nerves,” Coach Pat Stephens said, “but they did really well.”
Entering his 20th season with EKU, Coach Stephens said the win gives him confidence about the team’s capabilities this season.
“Winning in March and winning at home raised the bar quite a bit for us,” Stephens said. “As long as they go out and scratch and claw their way through we’ll be in really good shape for the remainder of the season.”
Stephens said the immense amount of talent on Eastern’s roster has helped the team succeed past expectations. Five of the current golfers are returning from last year’s fourth place finish at the OVC Championship, while newcomers such as Lindwall have proven to be helpful and successful additions to the team.
“The returning players obviously pulled themselves to the top after last year, but top to bottom we have a strong field,” Stephens said.
Healthy competition between returning players and talented newcomers is what Stephens said helps pull Eastern above the rest.
“That’s why we’re so good—if they slack off, someone’s going to their spot,” Stephens said. “All of the guys are capable of getting it done.”
But the team has more than talent on their side. Stephens, while a coach, is still playing the sport he loves. In fact, he won the Kentucky Senior Open just this summer.
Stephens said he thinks his continuous career has helped him connect to his players in a different way than most typical coach-athlete relationships.
“I think because I still compete and play at a high level I can truly relate to what the guys go through,” Stephens said. “I’m still a player and I think they can relate to me better—I’m relevant to them.”
The Colonels still have a tough road ahead of them with invitationals at Western Kentucky and William and Mary, but Stephens said with a team as good as his, this season is looking to be great for EKU golf.