UNF golfers enjoy banner year

Golf_Phelan

Two members of the men’s golf team have really teed the program up for success with their outstanding play at the national level.

 

Kevin Phelan, a native of Waterford, Ireland, qualified for the U.S. Open, played at Pebble Beach Golf Club, and earned a semifinal finish at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Golf Championship hosted by the USGA. Phelan represented his home country on the Ireland team at the World Team Championship in October.

 

Sean Dale, from Jacksonville, Fla., earned the 93rd-annual Florida State Amateur championship in July and joined teammates Phelan and Kevin Aylwin, a UNF junior from New Smyrna Beach, as qualifiers for the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship in August.

 

“Obviously, we had two guys play at a really high level for us,” said UNF sixth-year golf head coach Scott Schroeder, who earned the 2010 Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year award. “Both those guys were among the Top 100 players in the country and to be a successful program, you have to have some elite players on your team to compete against the bigger schools. In the past, we may have occasionally had one player of that caliber, but when you have two playing like we had last season, it really allows you to be competitive with any team in the country.”

 

During the 2009-10 season, the UNF golf team recorded Top 10 finishes in all 13 tournaments played, including 11 Top Five showings and eight finishes in the Top Three. The Ospreys, ranked in the Top 25 nationally all season, captured a pair of tournament titles and qualified for the NCAA Championships where they finished 14th out of 30 teams.

 

Since becoming one of the first varsity athletics programs sponsored by the University of North Florida, the men’s golf program has produced a long list of successful accomplishments in its quarter century of existence. 

 

From winning NAIA National Championships in 1991 and 1993 to capturing the first Atlantic Sun Conference title for UNF in 2008, the golf program has been one of the leaders in gaining recognition and attention for North Florida Athletics. Men’s golf was the first program at UNF to gain NCAA Division I status, earning the distinction in 1997-98, prior to the full department transition completed in 2008-09.

 

However, the successes enjoyed by the Osprey golf team in the past year can only be described as historic.

     

Dale and Phelan headlined the UNF golf journey last season with both players collecting numerous prestigious honors. Dale, a sophomore, was named the Atlantic Sun Golfer of the Year and first-team All-Conference member along with earning second-team Ping All-American accolades, while Phelan, claimed the A-Sun Conference Freshman of the Year honor and a spot on the first-team All-Conference squad.

     

As a team, UNF golfers produced 68 rounds under par for the year with Phelan (18) and Dale (15) combining for nearly half of the squad’s top performances. Dale led the team with an average score of 70.94, followed by Phelan at 72.35.

     

Phelan ended the season with eight Top 10 individual finishes, including the runner-up title at the NCAA South Central Regional. Dale had six Top 10 showings and claimed the individual medalist title at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate in Zionsville, Indiana.

     

The Ospreys earned the tournament titles at the John Hayt Invitational, an event hosted annually by UNF at Sawgrass Country Club and featuring a field full of nationally-ranked golf programs, and the BancorpSouth Intercollegiate, hosted by Ole Miss. In addition, North Florida boasted four runner-up tournament finishes for the season.

     

The Ospreys rebounded from a disappointing third-place finish at the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship in April, finishing fourth at the NCAA South Central Regional and advancing to the NCAA Championship tournament. The regional appearance marked just the fifth for UNF in its Division I history, while the trip to the NCAA Championship was just the second time for the program at the Division I level.

     

“Winning our home event, the John Hayt Invitational, was a big accomplishment for us because we hadn’t done that in a while,” said Schroeder, a former golfer at UNF from 1995 to 2000. “Earning a victory at the Ole Miss tournament, including defeating a Top 10 program like Florida at a neutral site, was also a real big moment. Finally, tying for 14th at the NCAA Championships was just a tremendous finish and accomplishment for our season. We were able to play against and finish ahead of many perennial collegiate golf powers at the NCAA Championship and that was a pretty cool feeling.”

     

“The only thing we let slip away was winning the Atlantic Sun Conference championship,” Schroeder added. “But because we had played so solidly throughout the entire season we earned an at-large invitation to the NCAA Regionals and were able to then earn our spot in the championship round with our play on the course.”

     

The success and attention did not subside once the collegiate golf season ended as UNF golfers continued to create a media buzz throughout the summer.

     

UNF linkster Major Forbess, a UNF junior from Jacksonville, also gained attention after capturing the Jacksonville Area Golf Association (JAGA) Amateur Championship in July at the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club.

     

Heading into the 2010-11 golf season, UNF returns all the key performers from the historic 2009-10 campaign. The squad is focused and determined to build on the accomplishments of last season but to also strive for even bigger and better things this year.

     

“We would definitely like to be able to earn a conference title this season,” Schroeder stated. “We haven’t won it the past two seasons and that is definitely something we have on our list of goals this year. Every year we want to field the best, most competitive team possible. The sport of golf can be finicky, with such an ebb-and-flow related to player confidence and skill level. We were a relatively young squad last year, so hopefully we can build on those successes and even reach new heights.“

     

The Ospreys seemed to be on the right track to start this season earning a pair of Top Five finishes in the Fall. Phelan owns two fifth-place showings, while Aylwin lists Top 25 finishes in each of the team’s four tournaments, including a personal best performance in the fall season finale in late October. UNF has already swept the Atlantic Sun Golfer of the Month honors, with Phelan getting the nod in September and Aylwin capturing the award in October.

     

North Florida is out of competition from November to late January and returns to action in its spring season opener, the JU Invitational, Jan. 31, in Ponte Vedra Beach.