VIDEO: Randy Wylie Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn – Following an autumn that saw them compete in four events against some of the top squads in the country, the Carson-Newman men's golf team has set its schedule for the spring.
"Our fall was O.K.," coach Randy Wylie said. "We're developing the toughness that's needed to compete at a high level in the NCAA. We can play better in the spring and I've scheduled a tough spring. I think the only way to get the toughness you need to play at the highest level is to go play the best teams and that's what we have coming up for us."
Coach Wylie's group is set to play in six tournaments on a slate that will take them to four different states and concludes with the South Atlantic Conference Championships at the Country Club of Salisbury in Salisbury, N.C. from April 23rd-25th.
"We had several tournaments that we've been going to regularly that are excellent events," Wylie said. "We wanted to go those events and have some tournament where we're defending [champions] or where we are trying to build on what we've already done there. I also added in a couple additional tournaments we haven't played in the past where we're playing some of the best teams in the country. Hopefully, heading into postseason at the end of the spring, we'll enjoy the fact that we've played against such tough competition."
After a hiatus of nearly four months, the Eagles resume competition at the Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate, which will be held at the Golf Club at Fleming Island in Fleming Island, Fla. This will mark the fifth straight year C-N has started the spring with this tournament and they posted their best finish in 2015. The group earned second place, just four strokes behind victorious Columbus State. Dalton Reese (Warrenton, Ga.) carded a score of three-under to finish third on the individual leaderboard and Jake Headrick (Maryville, Tenn.) was just two strokes behind to tie for sixth.
"[Last year] was the first time I had coached at that course," Wylie said. "I think we have a chance to compete and maybe win that event, which would be a great start. We do need some cooperative weather to prepare for it, but that's why we're going to Florida to start the season."
The schedule continues with the team's first ever trip to the Panther Invitational at Duran Golf Club, a 7100 yard, par 72 course in Viera, Fla. This event is set for March 6th-7th. Last season, the field included 12 teams and Keiser University's +20 earned them the top spot.
Next up for coach Wylie's crew will be their first three day event of the season, the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate, which will occupy the team from March 19th-21st. Sevierville Golf Club in Sevierville, Tenn. will host the tournament, which the Eagles will be competing in for the third straight year. Last season, they finished tied for fifth and were led by Andrew Hall, who shot a score of two-over and tied for fourth.
From March 27th-28th, C-N will make the trek to Muscle Shoals, Ala., their only visit to the Yellowhammer State this season. They will be participating in the Division II Regional Preview at the Fighting Joe Golf Club. This will mark the program's first time being included in this event.
The team's last tune-up before the SAC Championship is the Tennessee River Rumble and 2017 will mark Carson-Newman's third straight year at this competition. This year, the Eagles will enter as defending champions. In 2016, Reese led the way, as his one-over 145 earned him the individual crown, the first one of his career. Nick Kennedy also finished in the top ten, four strokes behind his teammate.
"Any time you win a tournament, you go back feeling really good about it," Wylie said. "It was Dalton Reese's first collegiate win so we feel really good about that event and it's at one of the premier courses. Tennessee National might be the best course in all of Division II golf. My kids look forward to playing that golf course. Coming off a win, we're really excited about going back there."
As it is set right now, the season finishes up with the SAC Championship from April 23rd-25th, although the Eagles certainly hope a trip to regionals follows. Coach Wylie's charges finished this tournament in second place a year ago, three shots behind Lincoln Memorial and three of Carson-Newman's student-athletes finished in the top 10. Headrick, Reese and the rest of the Eagles will be trying for a slight better outcome this time.
"Every year, our goal is to win the SAC Championship," Wylie said. "That's a standard goal on our team. We'll be going to that event expecting to win and trying to put ourselves in a position to where we can move on to NCAA Regionals."
To follow the Carson-Newman men's golf team all season long, visit cneagles.com and follow Carson-Newman athletics on Twitter at @CNathletics.