May 15, 2014
GALESBURG—Reaching the NJCAA Division II national tournament is nothing new for the Carl Sandburg College men’s golf program, but playing in it will be a new experience for all but one member of this year’s team.
The Chargers will be making their second straight appearance and fourth in the last five years at nationals when the four-day tournament kicks off Tuesday at Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth, Ind., but sophomore Joey Juergens (Galesburg, Ill./Galesburg) will be the only member of this year’s team to have played at this level’s biggest stage.
Juergens was the lone freshman on last year’s team that finished a program-best 12th at nationals. Now he’s the lone sophomore on a team that hopes to improve upon that result.
“Most of our guys haven’t been a part of this tournament, but I’m confident they’re all going to handle it well,” Sandburg coach Ryan Twaddle said. “We have four freshmen on our team, and every course we’ve played this year has been new to each of them. This isn’t any different except for having more at stake.”
Like last year, the Chargers enter the national tournament after having four golfers — Juergens, freshman Ryan Ballard (Germantown Hills, Ill./Metamora), freshman Austin McDougall III (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) and freshman Dylan Mullins (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) — earn All-Arrowhead Conference honors during the league’s spring season. Sandburg finished second in the conference’s team standings to fellow national qualifier Black Hawk, and the Chargers won the season’s final conference meet May 6 at Lake Bracken Country Club.
“We’re starting to play our best golf of the season, which is exactly what you hope to do heading into the biggest tournament of the year,” Twaddle said. “Because it was such a long winter, it took us a long time to be able to get out on the course regularly, and we’ve played in some tough conditions this spring. That affected our scoring a little bit, but now the weather’s started to turn and that makes it a lot easier to play the shots you want to play.”
Sandburg qualified for the national tournament after finishing second to Black Hawk in the Region IV tournament in October. The Chargers made up a three-shot deficit to Lake County on the final day to punch their return ticket to nationals.
The Chargers made a trip last weekend to get in a few rounds on the Swan Lake Resort Black Course, and they’ll participate in practice rounds Sunday and Monday before the tournament takes place Tuesday-Friday.
“The biggest thing we learned last year is that it’s a long, long tournament,” Twaddle said. “When you play four rounds, one bad hole isn’t going to hurt you too much, but if you let it affect you the rest of the day, that’s when it really makes a difference on your score. It takes a lot of patience, but we just need to remember that and play within ourselves.”