By Taylor Smith
After finishing second in the NCAC standings for the fourth straight year, the Ohio Wesleyan men’s golf team looks forward to continuing their winning streak.
The team lost one senior from last year, Jerry Moore, a two-time first-team All-NCAC honoree and a pivotal member of the team the past three seasons. But the team also lost several other players who transferred, which is why they only return six lettermen this year.
Amongst those letterman is junior captain Kaneat Nimcharoenwan who finished second, individually, in the conference last year, was named to the first-team All-NCAC team and was named to the PING All-Great Lakes All-Region team.
Head coach Ian Miller said this year’s team is capable of being better than last year’s team, but the players “need to put everything they have together and practice.”
“We have the ability to be a lot better; we’re definitely deeper,” he said. “We talked about consistency in the four and five spots. We have the ability to be consistently better in those spots, but you also have to remember we’re looking for four freshmen to make impacts. Sometimes just getting them adjusted and confident here in the first couple of months is the challenge… It’s just a matter of putting it into play right now and preparing properly.”
The team has already completed two tournaments this fall, tying for 7th of 19 at the Transylvania Invitational on Sept. 7 and 8 and finishing 11th of 12 at the John Piper Intercollegiate Sept. 16 and 17. The latter was hosted by Bowling Green State University and consisted of teams from all three NCAA divisions.
Miller said while there are individuals doing well and each player may have his own struggles, the team as a whole lacks consistency in competition.
“One guy struggled with his putter this week for example, another struggled with the mental side and another hit more fairways than greens,” Miller said. “It’s an individual thing, there isn’t across the board one thing, we’ve indentified that and we know what we’re going to work on this week and try to fix each guy’s inconsistencies.”
Nimcharoenwan said he agreed with his coach regarding the team’s consistency. He also said he thinks most of the things wrong with the team’s performance is its mentality.
“If they don’t trust themselves to shoot a low score, they will never hit it,” he said. “They just have to play more often and keep trying to put themselves in a position to play golf well and build their confidence.”
Miller and Nimcharoenwan both said one player who isn’t struggling with his confidence and is able to play well most of the time is freshman Chris Pavelic.
Pavelic has been the Bishops’ top finisher at both tournaments, taking medals in his first collegiate golf tournament at Transylvania and tying for 23rd at John Piper.
Miller said Pavelic has been adjusting pretty well to the college golf environment and his striking ability gives him a bit of an edge.
“We’ve played both tournaments about 7,000 yards, and that’s not a bother to him,” Miller said. “The day-in and day-out practice and then tournament weekend after weekend type thing will be his biggest adjustment, but so far he’s handled it pretty well.”
Pavelic said college golf is completely different than playing in high school, but it is pretty similar to junior tournaments he’s participated in.
Nimcharoenwan said Pavelic has extraordinary confidence and stays mentally strong while on the golf course.
“He just goes into tournaments wanting to play well and approaches every round the same, treating it like practice,” Nimcharoenwan said. “He doesn’t worry about significance or other people in the tournament.”
Pavelic said in an email that he plays golf to compete and have fun and knows he can always improve.
“I go out there each day with the same attitude to put the ball in play, hit some greens and make some putts, but most important is to have fun while your doing it,” he said. “I still haven’t played my best golf and I have tons of room to improve.”
Pavelic said he didn’t expect to win his first collegiate golf tournament, but stayed confident and held out for the win.
As for the rest of the season, Miller said the team’s only current focus is the Gordin Classic. The tournament honors former OWU men’s golf coach Dick Gordin, who coached the Bishops from 1955 to 1993.
Named the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year in 1987 and 1993, Gordin led 22 of his final 25 teams to the NCAA Division III or College Division championship tournaments. He brought home six top-five finishes in his final eight years of coaching and 12 league titles (seven in the Ohio Athletic Conference and five from the NCAC) over a span of five decades.
The Classic is held annually and features Ohio Wesleyan and the top 11 NCAA Division III teams from the previous year’s NCAA championship tournament.
OWU will host the tournament Monday, Sept. 30, and Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the Columbus Country Club. Miller said while he doesn’t like the term “expectations” and setting them for his players, he does have think the Bishops can finish well if they do what needs to be done.
“If we go in and play well and prepare and have confidence going in, I would think a top five finish would be great,” he said. “If we play really well we can definitely do better than that.
“We didn’t set a goal for what our finish should be for that tournament, we just want to go out each day of practice and each day at the event and worry what we have to worry about and the score will dictate at the end where we finish, and we have no control of that. We’re just going to control what we can control and go from there.”