Eagles look to back up No. 1 ranking
Friday, February 15, 2008
By Chad Hartwell
Oklahoma Christian University's golf team ranks No. 1 in the latest NAIA ratings after earning 10 of the possible 13 first place votes and a total of 322 points.
The team is pleased to be No. 1, but realizes the ranking only means something if their play this spring backs it up.
"Being on top feels good, and I like to see our team at the top," senior Bruno Buccolo said. "Although, I believe it does not mean a lot to be No. 1 if you can't win a national championship."
For head coach David Lynn, the ranking only represents the past.
"The ranking is nice, but it only means we played well in the fall," Lynn said. "We did earn that ranking, and we are proud of it, but we want to be No. 1 when it counts after the last round of nationals."
In five tournaments played last fall, the team placed first in three of the tournaments and second and third in the other two.
While the ranking may only mean something if the team wins a national title, it has inspired the players.
"Being ranked first gives us a lot of confidence and helps us believe we are going to achieve what we've looked for all these years, which is to win a national championship," junior Fernando Gonzalez said.
The coach and players both expect a lot of the team this spring and share a combined goal of winning nationals.
"I think that everyone on the team has one similar goal and that is to win nationals. Even though we are ranked No. 1, we always seem to fall just short at the national tournament," sophomore Richard Graham said. "Hopefully, this semester, we can put all our hard work together and come away with a national title."
The team plays five tournaments this spring. They start in Phoenix, Ariz. on Monday against 14 top 25 NAIA schools. Then, they go to Hawaii over spring break and will compete against strong NCAA Division I competition.
"Our biggest strength this year is our depth. We have seven to eight guys that can flat out play, and this will help us be more competitive day in and day out," Lynn said. "That will translate to better consistency during tournaments and hopefully, allow us to continue to get better during the course of the year."
Lynn expects Rhein Gibson and Buccolo to lead the team this spring. The two seniors are both three-time All-Americans and two-time scholar athletes. They have won more than ten individual titles between them and have been a part of around fifteen team titles.
"They know what to expect and how to react in any given situation," Lynn said. "They know how to win and will lead by example."
Lynn also expects Gonzalez to play a part in leading the team this spring.
"He is a very motivated person at all levels of his game," Lynn said. "When he stays in the present and positive, he leads by example very well."
Gonzalez said he feels he is in the right position to take on a leadership role.
"I believe I am playing my best golf, and I've never had so much confidence before," Gonazlez said. "But it is not what I can do this semester, it is what we all can do for the team."
Lynn believes that both Gibson and Bruno will be playing professionally very soon.
"They have lofty goals and have proven to be the best at their level," Lynn said. "There will be some adjustment, but with experience, they will do very well at the next level."
The team would like the other students at Oklahoma Christian to be aware of the success the team has obtained, and they want to continue this trend of working hard in order to maintain this trend.
"I think the golf team goes unnoticed a lot of the time," Graham said. "It would be great if there was a bigger awareness around campus."
For Gonzalez, Oklahoma Christian students can show their support in simple terms.
"I want them to support us and to pray for us so we can achieve our goals for this semester," Gonzales said.
Lynn hopes the team will stay positive and encourage each other at all times. Players and coaches alike believe the key to winning lies with the attitudes and of the players.
"Golf is such an individual sport in that when you play poorly it is hard to hide your emotions. We need to work on fighting to stay positive for the team even if you are having a bad day," Lynn said. "Positive team enthusiasm is contagious but so is negative emotion."
Buccolo said the team's success will come and go with their attitudes and confidence.
"This may sound a little cocky, but if we, as a team, do not think we are going to win, then it is almost a reality that we are not going to win," Buccolo said. "We are working hard to achieve the goal of winning nationals, so thinking as a winner is also working for that goal."