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Titans to Open 2014 Golf Season Targeting 12th Straight Nationals Appearance

Jan. 22, 2014 - Expectations are part of playing golf at Eastern Florida State. After all the Titans have made 11 consecutive appearances in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament under head coach Jamie Howell with a best finish of third on three occasions.

Eastern Florida finished fifth in the 2013 national tournament and ended the fall season ranked ninth in the Golf World/Nike Golf NJCAA Division I College Coaches' Polls and 10th in the NJCAA Division I poll, marking the 11th consecutive time the Titans have finished the fall season with a national ranking.

The Titans have won seven national team titles – the most recent in 1991 – produced seven individual national champions, competed in the national tournament 44 times in its 54-year history and produced more than 115 All Americans since beginning golf in 1968.

"The old adage, 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen' applies," Howell said. "Most pressure is self-induced in whatever arena we are talking about. Every one of our team members realize they play for a special program that seeks out team members with a similar mindset, to compete at the highest levels and be reckoned with at every tournament on our schedule.

"The more we venture into the competitive arena and compete the better we can prepare and be prepared for whatever comes our way."

Eastern Florida tees off its spring championship season with the Feb. 3-4 Titan Winter Invitational at Suntree Country Club. Among the teams joining the Titans will be NCAA Division II Florida Tech and Eastern Florida's competitors from NJCAA District 4 including defending national champion Central Alabama, Darton State, Faulkner State, USC Lancaster, Wake Tech and Wallace State. Other four-year schools competing will be Embry Riddle, Webber International and Tampa.

Also on the docket are tournaments in Fairhope, AL and Albany, GA, a one-day match with St. Peter's University, and the Florida Tech and Barry University tournaments where the Titans will be the only two-year program competing.

"What better way for the guys to experience what high caliber college golf is all about and what they have to look forward to in their coming years after transferring from EFSC?" Howell said of the Florida Tech and Barry tournaments. "It's all about having a schedule that allows us to compete and determine what we need to do to improve."

The April 14-15 District 4 tournament that Eastern Florida won in 2013, is the final step before the national tournament in May.

So, how are the Titans shaping up?

"The chemistry of the team is very good," Howell said. "Everyone appears to be on the same page and is willing to do what needs to be done to compete. The team is talented but not beneath making a series of small mistakes that add up to lost shots very quickly.

"The team did a better job of recognizing how to adapt to different courses as our fall schedule played out. Our composure improved during tournament rounds and expectations for results played a smaller role in our preparation. We have talent, but how we apply that talent and bring it out will be the difference in a team that saves shots versus a team that spends shots. Our fall stats reveal we do a good job hitting greens in regulation, hitting fairways and par 5 scoring. We need to do a better job saving shots around greens and making more birdies when playing short irons into greens."

Competing for Eastern Florida will be sophomores Kyle Benson of Bradenton, FL; Arthur Leonard of Hockley, England and Nicholas Maynard of Austin, TX, and freshmen Dalton Bartlett of Cocoa, FL; Lorenzo Bolivar of Orlando, FL; Drew Cooke of Homosassa, FL; and Brad Gray of Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

Not surprisingly Howell will count on his sophomores to set the tone.

"Coaches always look to upper classmen to assist with motivating and bringing a team together," Howell said. "You are always looking for someone who has been there, done that from your upper classmen.

"In golf the team member who not only competes at the highest level consistently but also has the poise and composure necessary to compete every day tends to gain the greater respect of his teammates. Golf is a game that changes almost daily in who has the hot hand and who may be struggling."