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
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
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.