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EFSC Golf Team Ready to Tee Off in National Tournament
May 12, 2014 - There is no magic formula when it comes to a team reaching the highest level of competition in its sport for 12 consecutive seasons unless expectations can be considered a key ingredient.
"There was never any thought that we weren't going to nationals," Eastern Florida head golf coach Jamie Howell said after the Titans placed third in the NJCAA District 4 tournament to earn their 12th trip to the national tournament in Howell's 12 years at the helm.
The tournament will be competed over 72 holes – Tuesday through Friday – at the Spirit Hollow Golf Course in Burlington, IA.
And while the Titans best finish at nationals in the last 11 years has been third on three occasions – they were fifth in 2013 - Howell knows each team he took to the nationals had the goal of adding to the college's legacy of seven national championships. This team is no different.
After all, whenever they walk into the classroom at EFSC's Fred Gay Golf Academy in Cocoa, the facility they call home, they are greeted with an impressive collection of trophies the program has amassed through the years.
That and the legacy passed down each season from sophomores who have been to the national tournament and want to return can't help but have an impact.
'It sets the bar," said sophomore Nick Maynard. "We're one of best junior college programs in the country historically. That sets an awful high bar for us to achieve but that's what we're all about, achieving goals.
"We expect to play well at nationals just like everyone else does."
Maynard will be one of the five golfers representing EFSC, the others being 2014 District 4 champion and sophomore Arthur Leonard, sophomore Kyle Benson and freshmen Drew Cooke and Brad Gray. Freshman Dalton Bartlett is the alternate.
And there is extra incentive for the five to bring home the college's first national title since 1991: Howell has agreed to shave the mustache he has worn for better part of 38 years.
"High stakes," joked Leonard.
"They came to me with it," Howell said. "There was no way I was offering that. They said 'coach if we did this would you' and I said 'sure.'
"If that's going to motivate them to do a little better OK, I can do that."
To get to the top the Titans know they must improve their short game, which has been an issue this season. To that end Howell has set a goal of 70 percent up and downs.
The players know each shot saved is a shot in their pocket.
"Say you miss the green 10 times, if you can get up and down seven times that means you're saving par most of the time, or even a bogey," Benson said.
"That's what this game is all about is saving shots."
Also, the championship course is expected to play tough but the Titans aren't cowed.
"We've succeeded at tough courses," said Maynard said. "We feel like that suits our game as a team. We're very consistent off the tee and we all have very good wedge games."
Competing and excelling is something Howell preaches from the first day of practice to the final shot of the national tournament.
"I think if you polled my fellow coaches they would probably tell you that all through the years they can expect us to show up and compete in every tournament we play," Howell said.
"It's something we strive for every year. When the guys arrive here in August we start talking about it then. I don't wait until the spring semester to start working on the national tournament.
"We've got a dry period (since the last national title) and I'm not happy about that," Howell said. "There's a standard we have at the college, we expect this golf team to achieve.
"Whether that's fair or not, that's the way it is."