Sharks in the water
Nova Southeastern hits finals primed for DII title repeat
HERSHEY, Pa. –- Confidence?
Nova Southeastern is brimming with it going into this week’s NCAA Division II men’s golf national championship tournament. All things considered, there’s probably good reason for that.
Defending national champions? Yes.
All but one player who competed for last year’s grand prize returned this year? Absolutely.
Benjamin Taylor, last year’s NCAA Player of the Year, is back? Yep. He’s also the high-ranking player going into this year’s title round.
Are the sharks long and accurate off the tee and good on the green? You’ve got it.
Last but not least, are the Sharks currently ranked first in the Golf Coaches Association of America poll? Bingo.
Nova Southeastern are unfamiliar with its surroundings this week at the Hershey Country Club East Course, a 7,061-yard, par-71 course that features more than 100 bunkers. From the sound of it, though, that means little when it comes to shaking up the Sharks.
The tournament’s individual champion will be decided following play Monday through Wednesday. After that, the top-eight schools will decide the team title in quarter- and semifinals on Thursday and a final round Friday.
“You don’t really worry about the grand scheme of things,” Ryan Jamison, Nova Southeastern’s head coach said. “You try to focus on every day, every week getting better. That’s what we’ve done really well -– stayed in the present all year. We haven’t really gotten too far ahead of ourselves. I think that’s a testament to where we are right now.”
The kind of success that Nova Southeastern has experienced in the last couple of years makes them a huge target – to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and so forth. If the Sharks happen to be ranked first, so be it. Jamison intends to have his golfers keep swinging, no matter what.
Do that, and the results will come.
“We don’t really look too much at the rankings,” he admitted. “It sounds a little bit political, but we just stay our course every week and continually try to get better. If we’re winning tournaments by five or 10 shots, we’re trying to win those next tournaments by 15 or 20 shots. We’re always trying to push the envelope.
“The guys, they’re not dumb by any means. They definitely know where we’re at and whose teams are behind them. But they’re very, very confident in everything that they do. That speaks to the practice and the hard work that they put in every day. It speaks to the results we’ve had so far.”
The game plan has worked for Nova Southeastern so well for so long, Jamison doesn’t see making any major changes any time soon. Why would he?
“There’s obviously a reason why we’ve been so successful this year, and I think we would be idiots to change up our style and way of doing things,” he added.
There’s really no big secret to the team’s success. The play of its experienced squad is well rounded, from the tee to the green. It would be hard to ask for much more than that.
“I really, honestly, feel like we do everything well,” said Jamison, this year’s All-Sunshine State Conference coach of the year. “I think that’s the mark of a great team. We’re long off the tee, and we’re also accurate off the tee. I think we have the best five ball strikers in the country. I really don’t think it’s much of an argument, if you look at the stats.
“Once you get around the green, we have an exceptional short game, great putters. Then, we have guys who really know how to conduct themselves on the golf course, mentally and physically. You put that all together, you put us on the toughest golf course you can possibly put us on, that’s where we’ll distinguish ourselves from our competition.”
Twenty teams are going after the sport’s biggest prize this week, but it’s what his own team does that’s on Jamison’s mind at this point.
“There’s not really one team that I’m concerned about,” he said. “I really don’t have any concerns at all. I just want each of the guys to go out and play to the best of their ability, and I know that everything else will kind of take care of itself.
“I definitely know that there’s some great teams out there, but I try not to concern myself with what other people do. As long as we’re relaxed and we’re doing the same things we’ve been doing all year, I think we should have a great opportunity to win another national championship.”