A comeback for the agesPublished 11:21am Tuesday, May 21, 2013
It’s not over, until it’s over.
Central Alabama’s golf team put that old adage to the most strenuous of tests, and the Trojans passed with flying colors.
Their reward? The school’s sixth NJCAA Division I National Golf Championship.
After entering the third round 20 shots off the lead, the No. 1 ranked Trojans roared through the competition and eventually overtook Odessa College in the final round to win the event by one stroke.
“This is a really small community, and we’ve got a really small college, but our athletics and our pride are second to none,” CACC golf coach Dave Jennings said. “I’ve had some great players come through here, but we finally got the right five guys that put it all together. I’m on cloud nine. It’s been a long journey since I got here in ‘01. Maybe I need to go to Vegas and go to the dice table. By God, it’s good to be a Trojan.”
With the win, CACC claimed its first national golf championship since 2000, ending a 13-year drought. Jennings, who was hired as coach when the CACC golf program was restarted in 2001, said he knew early in the season, the team could be great.
“They weren’t the kind of guys I had to force to go practice or go work,” he said. “The teams that do OK follow what the coach makes them do. These guys stayed longer, they’d stay until dark and put in the extra hour or the extra two hours. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what they wanted. They wanted to be the best and that’s what they were.”
However, without an furious climb up the leaderboard in the third round, CACC’s title hopes may have been dashed.
“After round two we were so far behind and in eighth place,” Jennings said, “But we had come back from the Regionals where we had shot 17 under. I told the guys, ‘We were not trying to do anything we hadn’t done before. We have the opportunity to duplicate something we’ve done before, and we can do that out here. Let’s show these guys why we’re number one.’ And they stepped up and did it.”
The Trojans ran wild on the Rawls course in Lubbock, Texas, shooting a 272, good for a round of 16-under par, to move within one shot back of Odessa.
In the third round, Tim Walker, Andrew Klasing, J.M. O’Toole and Alex Mahlik all shot at least two-under par.
With momentum on their side, CACC then shot a five-under par as a team to firmly plant themselves at the top of the leaderboard.
“All of the golfers whose scores counted birdied on the final hole so we could win this tournament by one shot, which is an amazing feat,” Jennings said. “I just happen to have five of the best golfers in junior college. The guys stepped up and showed why we’re ranked number one.”
Walker, Klasing, Mahlik, O’Toole and Baxter Reeves all shot no worse than par to complete the comeback.
“The final day was absolutely amazing, let me tell you,” Jennings said. “These guys were so driven to finish the golf tournament. They were doing it for themselves, but I promise you they were doing it for the people who supported them They did it for Alexander City, they did it for CACC and God bless them, they were doing it for me, too. It was so, so cool. Aside from the birth of my son, it was the most proud I’ve ever been.”