The East Carolina men’s golf team entered the season with many question marks, with only two players returned this season with considerable experience compared to the four freshmen the team was relying on to play significant rounds.
Head coach Press McPhaul found the right system this fall and is hoping to carry it over to the spring.
To start the season, the Pirates traveled to Duke to participate in the Rod Myers Invitational. After play was suspended the first day, ECU shot the second worst score in the tournament (33-over-par) and took home 13th place.
“I was kind of nervous in that first tournament and I think it showed,” said Blake Taylor, one of the freshmen called upon to play major rounds. “It was the second tournament that kick started my season.”
Following a tough start to the season, the Pirates ran off four-straight top-five finishes. Led by the play of junior Tim Conover, ECU went to NC State to compete in the Wolfpack Fall Invitational and took home first place. Conover, who took home first place individually with 12-under-par, carried the team to a score of 15-under-par, two shots clear of Kennesaw State University.
After the fall success, the question marks have turned into exclamation points.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for this semester,” McPhaul said. “Our confidence is high because we have good players and we know it.”
The Pirates finished their first tournament of the season on Tuesday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The team struggled on its first action in 128 days, finishing No. 12 out of 15. Conover led the way finishing in a tie for No. 30 at 9-over-par. The second-ranked Florida team captured the title, with its own Ryan Orr taking home the individual title. It may not have been the best tournament for ECU, but players said getting back on the green and competing was a step in the right direction.
“Everyone has been working really hard and we’re all just looking forward to getting back out there and having a great semester,” said Conover.
Now that the freshmen have some experience — a combined 41 rounds played — it’s about the team turning its attention to winning. With six tournaments remaining in the season, and postseason play on the horizon, the Pirates are going to have to figure out how to carry their success from the fall over.
Last season, with a much more experienced team, ECU finished fourth out of nine in the American Championship. The Pirates qualified for the NCAA Regional tournament and fired a three-day score of 17-under-par. It was only good for eighth place, and the team fell just short of an NCAA Championship appearance.
ECU will have another two weeks off until it travels back down to Ponte Vedra Beach to compete in The Hayt. The Pirates will get to defend their home course, Brook Valley Country Club, at the East Carolina Intercollegiate on April 3-4.
But for now, the team is focused on getting out on the course to finally start playing again.
“I love playing [golf],” Taylor said. “So winter workouts were fun, but I’m looking forward to getting back out there and competing with these guys again.”