By Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE MOUNTAIN – It’s a long trip for a long shot but the Blue Mountain College men’s golf team is ready to take both.
After only three seasons of intercollegiate golf, BMC begins play Tuesday in the NAIA National Championships at Creekside Golf Club in Salem, Ore.
Twenty-one teams and 16 individuals will compete in the 72-hole tournament that concludes Friday. The field will be cut following Thursday’s third round.
“I’ll go out on a limb here and say this will be our biggest tournament so far,” BMC coach Danny McKenzie said. “We’ve played strong competition since we started our program, but we haven’t grabbed onto anything like this. It’s going to be a challenge, and I’ve got a feeling we’ll be OK.”
After a mediocre spring showing, BMC made it to the national tournament by winning the recent qualifying tournament between four teams from the TranSouth Athletic Conference and two teams from the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. The week prior, BMC finished third among the same four TSAC teams in the conference championship.
“Our guys just kept doing what they know how to do, and it all worked out,” McKenzie said. “The great thing about winning the last tournament was that it was a total team win. Every player contributed.
“We had a couple guys struggle in the final round, but then Delton Pounds, our number-five player, stepped up. Delton improved his third-round score by four shots in the final round, and we won by four. That’s pretty spiffy.”
Adam Hall, a junior from Saltillo, tied for fourth in the qualifier, and has averaged 74.8 during his last eight rounds to maintain the number-one spot. Hall recently earned all-conference honors for the second year.
Tanner Sparks from Belmont, BMC’s only senior, and Austin Holt, a junior from New Albany who tied for sixth in the qualifier, have swapped the two- and three-spots all year. Austin Bynum, a sophomore from West Union, and Pounds, a junior from Hattiesburg, have traded out the four- and five-spots.
While weather is always an issue in the Great Northwest, McKenzie said BMC felt prepared for just about anything.
“The NAIA held the tournament there last year and the temperatures were in the 50s with rain,” he said. “That was a pretty typical day for us around here this spring. It’s going to be a great trip.”