CONOVER, N.C. -- One. It’s just a number.
Ranked first in NCAA Division II men’s golf heading into this week’s national championship, Nova Southeastern would appear to be the favorite. Head coach Ryan Jamison, however, isn’t quite so sure being there before play begins is as important as being there after it ends.
Jamison, in his third year at Nova Southeastern, understands any pre-tournament ranking doesn’t come with mulligans or subtracted strokes.
“[Being ranked first] shows you that you’ve had a good year this year, but ultimately, when you get to the final tournament, everybody starts from scratch,” Jamison said. “Honestly, it doesn’t place a target on your back.
“I really do think that’s the kind of mindset that we have coming into this week, is that it’s another tournament and another opportunity. A ranking is just a ranking. At this point going forward the ranking has nothing to do with anything.”
Former head coach Garrett Runion led Nova Southeastern to its only DII national crown in 2012. Jamison came on board a year later, and the Sharks wound up third in the national championship tournament held in Hershey, Pennsylvania, followed by a second-place last year in Conover.
Jamison wants to win another title this time, but he also wants his team to also have fun. His five golfers make up an international squad, if ever there was one: Colombian Santiago Gomez, Swede Oscar Lengden, Englishman Richard Mansell, Priyanshu Singh from India and American Ethan Marcus.
“My style is about them being loose,” Jamison said. “It evolves. It unfolds. It depends on what a team needs. I truly do believe in the guys being loose. They have to have everything that every other team has to have, but I really like it when they’re loose.
"We just have fun. We get down to business when we need to get down to business, but we’re a group with great chemistry. We have fun traveling together and hanging out with each other.”
Staying loose under pressure is difficult but Jamison has confidence in his team.
“We’ll do the same things we’ve always done the whole year,” Jamison said. “I believe everybody’s a creature of habit. I don’t think you change anything you’ve done throughout the year. We’re going to prepare the same way we’ve prepared all year. This is a tournament with a little bit more on the line, and everybody knows that. They’re not numb to that.
“But you can just worry about the things that you can control. If you get ahead of yourself, that’s a good reminder that you need to get back in the present. That’s the main thing I tell them, ‘Control what you can control. Hit the next shot to the best of your ability.’ That’s what it’s about … living in the now and focusing on what’s important now.”
What’s important now is that the Sharks be at the top of their game. Jamison knows that there’s always going to be room for improvement.
“If these guys want to play professional golf at the next level, they need to get better in every area,” he said. “I don’t think you can single out one area. Our goal ultimately is to strive to be the best version of ourselves. I don’t think anybody on our team, in our division or anybody at this tournament would say their game is right where they want it to be. You’re always striving to get better.”
A second national championship for Nova Southeastern's trophy case? Jamison would dearly love that.
“Man, I think it would be a tremendous achievement for everyone,” Jamison said. “It would put some validation to the work that we’ve done this year. But, ultimately, I try to stay in the moment and worry about things that you can control. I try not to focus too far down the line, other than what’s coming up this week and how to prepare the best we can.”