DII golf: West Florida men's golf team ready for Gulf South Championship
As well as West Florida men’s golf team has played in the month of March, the Argonauts are still taking a workmanlike approach into the upcoming Gulf South Conference Championship Sunday through Tuesday at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.
“We are working with each other and grinding,” said junior Chandler Blanchet.
Because of their performances this spring, West Florida has already qualified for the South/Southeast Super Regional May 8-10 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
“What we do at the conference championship doesn’t really matter, but we are going there to win and keep the momentum going into the super regional,” said West Florida coach Steve Fell.
The way West Florida has played this season, it is obvious the mindset is to win every tournament it is in.
Blanchet is the epitome of that focus. In early April, he was selected Gulf South Conference golfer of the month for his performances in March.
As stated on the West Florida website, Blanchet turned in one of the more remarkable three-week stretches in the country, winning three tournaments in March with a 69.13 stroke average.
He claimed the Las Vegas Desert Classic with consecutive rounds of 66 for a three-shot win. He followed that up with a school- and tournament-record 62 in the first round of the Southeastern Collegiate in Valdosta, Georgia, en route to a four-shot victory. The 62 was also tied for the fourth lowest round at any level (Division I, II, III, NAIA or JUCO) this season.
Blanchet ended the torrid run with a 211 to tie for first at the Bobcat Invitational in Eatonton, Georgia, before winning on the first playoff hole. He led top-ranked West Florida to a pair of team titles in the process.
“He has been playing phenomenal,” Fell said. “He has been firing on all cylinders. He is hitting in all facets of his game.”
But it takes more than one golfer to help a team rise to No. 1 in the GCAA Coaches Top 25.
RELATED: GCAA Top 25
Last summer, sophomore Jacob Huizinga won the Florida state amateur, shot 16 under, and broke the tournament record in the process. Also during the summer, junior Henry Westmoreland shot a 62 the final round of a tournament.
“We have two guys on the team that have shot 62 in competition,” Fell said. “That is pretty strong.”
A young West Florida team went to the Division II Spring Festival last spring and showed its talent. A team of two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior advanced to the quarterfinals of match play and took on top-ranked Chico State — a senior-dominated team.
“They had a lot more experience on their end,” Fell said. “We held with them pretty well. Knowing we could hold our own against the No. 1 team last year gave us a lot of confidence coming into this year that we could do it.”
Chico State went on to finish as national runner-up to Saint Leo. Blanchet said the experience of last season has made the Argonauts hungry to accomplish more this year.
“That gave us a taste of what we want,” Blanchet said. “It gave us invaluable experience, playing against experienced players. We know what we need to do and how we need to play. We want to bring home some rings this year.”
The immediate focus is on the Gulf South Championship where the Argonauts will face very good competition. North Alabama is ranked sixth in the country and Valdosta State is ranked 19th.
“We are going to treat it like any other tournament,” Blanchet said. “It is an important tournament. We want to go out and play our best and get back into the groove of it. We have had two weeks off so we want to get back into the grind of the postseason and gather some momentum going into the next couple of weeks.
“The whole team has prepared very well for every tournament. We have such a good connection with the team that we feel very close out there. I think that plays a very big role for us.”
Because West Florida has several players who can shoot low scores, it takes the pressure off each golfer.
“We push each other,” Blanchet said. “If one of us is not playing well, we know the other four have our back and there is going to be a good score posted. It could be anybody who goes out and shoot in the mid-60s. Everybody has the potential to play very well. It is exciting. Every tournament we go to we have a good mindset to win and try to come out with a trophy, you can’t beat that feeling.”
Lynn golfer played two rounds in the Masters
No matter who Lynn freshman Toto Gana tees up with at the Sunshine State Conference Championship Sunday through Tuesday at Duran Golf Course in Melbourne, Florida, they won’t match the golfers he saw a few weeks ago.
Gana had the honor of playing in the Masters. He shot a two-day score of 161 for six over par. Although he didn’t make the cut, it was a great experience.
“I am extremely proud of Toto for making the most out of his Masters' experience. Hopefully, this is the first of many,” said Lynn head coach Andrew Danna on the school’s website. “The lessons he learned from teeing it up with the world's best golfers this week are priceless and something he will cherish long into the future as both a golfer and a person.”
As a team, Lynn, ranked No. 2, is doing very well. On March 21, the Fighting Knights finished first out of 17 teams in the Bobcat Invitational. Junior Manuel Torres finished second and Gana and senior Mateo Gomez finished tied for sixth.