Vignettes and observations from the NCAA Division III Men's Golf Championships by retired Greensboro News & Record reporter Jim Schlosser '65
A Familiar Leader
Here we go again with Methodist University's golf team. The Monarchs have dominated NCAA Division III men's golf, winning 11 national championships in the 33 years Steve Conley has coached the team, most recently in 2015 right here in Greensboro.
After Thursday's third round of the Division III Tournament at Grandover Resort and Spa, the Monarchs stood 10 shots ahead of Washington and Lee University and 13 over second-round leader Guilford College.
The three schools were paired together for the third round. It was easy to see watching the action on the 17th and 18th holes why Methodist's lead was so steep. Most of its five players putted for birdies, while Guilford and Washington and Lee guys grinded for pars. Guilford seemed to have a fondness for the trees on the right of the 18th fairway.
Asked why the team dominates in golf, Conley said, "Part of it is location, weather, hopefully good coaching, recruiting, and tradition. The guys buy into what we do."
The Methodist campus, built in 1956, is in Fayetteville, in the state's Sandhills region, where the weather is usually milder than the rest of North Carolina.
"They can work on their game all year round," Conley says.
Though school sticks mostly to playing other Division III schools, in the past it has occasionally teed up against some Division II and even some Division I institutions. Conley says the Monarchs can boast of an 86 percent success rate against DI mid-majors.
"Our guys can compete against most everybody, maybe not the top ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) schools, but most everybody else," he said.
Conley stayed busy coaching Thursday. He drove a cart from hole to hole to check on his players. He stepped on the greens to help them line up putts and in the fairways to make sure they had the proper alignment for approach shots.
Conley's determination and the school's golfing reputation have been a big factor in recruiting. Even though Methodist can't give golf scholarships (they are not allowed in Division III), he manages to attract players to Fayetteville from all over the nation. Senior Jared Chinn lists Fayetteville as his hometown, but he's originally from Hawaii. His father was an Army major general who spent time at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville. Junior Larkin Gross is from Center Cross, Virginia; senior Aaron Purviance, Winston-Salem; junior Dan Shepherd, Wilton, New York; and junior Chris Drysdale from Yorktown Heights, Virginia.
Here's another clue to Methodist's success. The team isn't content with its standing in a tournament, As soon as the last of its players finished the 18th Thursday, the team headed straight to the putting green to practice for Friday's final round.
The Real St. Scholastica
The College of St. Scholastica is real, despite what lovers of crime books may say.
The Catholic school's golf team, which missed the 36-hole cut in the NCAA Division III Men's Golf Championships this week, has a stately campus in Duluth, Minnesota, and 4,237 students.
Don't confuse it with the St. Scholastica College at Oxford University in England. That one is phony; one of the many made-up schools that crime writers use when they set books in Oxford, a consortium of English colleges. Lots of action takes place at St. Scholastica College in Scottish writer Val McDermid's 2015 book, "The Skeleton Road."
The real and made up school get their name from Saint Scholastica, a Catholic nun who died in 543. Twenty-nine sisters who were Benedictine missionaries, including one named Mother Scholastica Kerst, founded the real College of St. Scholastica in 1892.
The school's nickname, naturally, is the Saints.
The Kennedy family will not be pleased. The members were used to winning, at least in politics. Manhattanville College, which many Kennedy women attended, missed the 36-hole cut Wednesday in the NCAA Division III Men's Golf Championships at Grandover Resort and Spa. The five-member team shot a collective score of 114-over par, 30 strokes higher than the team that finished next to the last. But, hey, it snowed into early May in New York this year. The team from the small Catholic school, which is not in Manhattan and was all-female until 1969, had little opportunity to prepare for Greensboro.
Manhattanville's Kennedy alumni include: Rose Kennedy, mother of President John, and U.S. Senators Robert and Ted; Ethel Kennedy, Robert's wife; Joan Kennedy, wife of Sen. Ted Kennedy before they divorced; Eunice Kennedy Shriver, married to American diplomat Sargent Shriver - their daughter, journalist Maria Shriver also went to Manhattanville. Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of John, Robert and Ted and daughter of Rose, went to the school, founded in Manhattan in 1841. It now sits in bucolic Westchester County, north of Manhattan.
Another notable alum is Gloria Vanderbilt, mother of broadcaster Anderson Cooper.
A check of the men's golf roster turned up no Kennedys or Vanderbilts. The team is young and may qualify for another NCAA Division III Tournament next year, or the year after. The key players are a freshman, two sophomores, and a junior.
Ben the Survivor
It was a long day and short night Wednesday for four NCAA Division III golfers. Two of their schools– North Carolina Wesleyan College (Rocky Mount, North Carolina) and Goucher College (Towson, Maryland) failed to make the tournament's 36-hole cut. The other two, Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio) and Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, earned one of seven spots reserved for individual contestants. But the event allows six individuals, either solo contestants or players from the 24 schools that missed the cut, to play the tournament's final 36 holes for individual honors. The four golfers – Kenyon's Ryan Muthiora, Evan Yue of Goucher, N.C. Wesleyan's Grady Anderson and Ben VanScoyk of Calvin shared the final spot, each with a four-over-par total after 36 holes.
A playoff was required using the par-5 18th hole on the Grandover Resort and Spa's picturesque East Course. They all finished the hole with pars. VanScoyk had to make a testy five-footer for his par.
By then, it was too dark to continue. With the third round already underway, the four had to return to Grandover for the conclusion of the playoff at 7:45 a.m., again on the 18th. VanScoyk, Yue, and Anderson made pars. Kenyon's Muthiora bogeyed and was eliminated. The other three trekked 570 yards back to the tee to continue. By then, the third round was well underway from the East Course's first and tenth tees.
Finally, Ben VanScoyk, a senior from Grand Rapids, birdied the hole to win the playoff.
He had little time to rest and teed off 9:15 a.m. with the University of La Verne's Conner Davis, who made the top-six with an even-par total, and Husson University's Eric Dugas, who qualified with a three-over par total. VanScoyk carried the momentum from his playoff win to a round of two-under 70, which vaulted him up 24 spots into a share of 15th place among individuals.
Look Good, Play Good
Give Otterbein University's men's golf team an award for the most clothing touting the school's cardinal and tan colors and Otterbein name. From head to toe, the team's five-man squad from Waterville, Ohio, wears white hats with a big red "O" above the brim, red and white striped golf shirts, white belts with a big, metal buckle with the school name, tannish-colored Bermuda shorts. And four of the five wore red-and-white golf shoes. Otterbein head coach Brian Booher wore a solid red pair.
Booher, who won Ohio Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors for the third year in a row, says the team sometimes reverses its attire, for example, wearing a red hat instead of white. Some schools nicknamed Cardinal or Cardinals, such as St. John Fisher College of New York, also competing here this week, are so named for the school's Catholic roots. But Otterbein was founded in 1847 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and is now affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
Otterbein student-athletes place their red-and-white golf bags (bearing the Otterbein name of course) on push carts. Most competitors from other schools in the national tournament hoist their bags on their shoulder and walk the Grandover Resort and Spa courses.
The carts save energy, Booher says, as he stood behind his players as they warmed up on the practice tee early Thursday. The Cardinals entered Thursday's round with a team total of 18-over par, good for 11th place. The school has come close before in the NCAA, but never victorious. The Cardinals may not win the team title this year, but watch out for senior Austin Wells. At 5-under par after three rounds, he led the competition for the individual title. Two players trailed him at 4-under and four were at 3-under under, including defending champion Josh Gibson of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
Booher says Wells has the experience to be the school's first NCAA Division III national champ Friday afternoon.
"This is his fourth visit to the national championship," the coach said. "He knows how to handle the stress of the event."