By STEVE WILLIAMS
Greensboro College has begun the season at the top of the list and the Pride is having a blast in the middle of the national spotlight.
A wire-to-wire victory in the Golfweek Division III Fall Invitational in Haines City, Fla., earned Greensboro quite a bit of notoriety. In Golfstat’s first national ranking of the year, on Sept. 22, the Pride was listed No. 1.
And that came on top of full coverage provided by Golfweek.com. Every player in the line-up made an appearance in a highlight video featured on the website.
“The kids have celebrated the number one ranking and they’re having fun with it,” said Greensboro coach Dirk Fennie. “We had fun down there and later going on line and watching that. We don’t usually get that kind of coverage so it’s fun to be paid attention to.”
Senior Brock Elder of Greensboro, a former star at Vandalia Christian, is Golfstat’s top-ranked individual. Like the team, he led from start to finish with rounds of 68, 68 and 73. His 7-under-par tally was two shots better than teammate Ben Nihart of Winston-Salem (69-71-71) and Huntingdon’s Chase Blaich (74-68-69).
“They’re really competitive with each other,” Fennie said of Elder and Nihart. “They’re trying to beat each other every day in practice and it carries over into tournaments.”
The Pride’s 282-288-288 effort at Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club on Sept. 12-14 was far from a two-man show, however.
Connor Kennedy, a senior from Siler City, and Josh Nichols, a junior who played his high school golf at West Forsyth, tied for 29th among the 75 players in the field. Kennedy shot 71-78-73 and Nichols 80-71-71.
Soph Clint Dillon of Madison was also a key man as his first-round 74 came on the day that Nichols struggled.
“We reached one of our team goals, which was to shoot under par as a team,” Fennie said. “We did that on Sunday and followed up with two even-par rounds.
“Obviously, I am very pleased with our start to the season. A lot of the best programs in the country were there.”
Among those was defending national champion Methodist, which settled for fourth place, 15 shots off Greensboro’s pace. Huntingdon was second, 10 shots back, and Skidmore College was third, 13 behind. The field included 15 teams.
“Obviously, Methodist is a big rival of ours,” Fennie said. “They lost four unbelievable golfers (to graduation) but I expect them to be there at the end of the year.”
Greensboro finished 11th in last year’s national championship and has all five of the players from the line-up returning. It was the Pride’s return to the nationals after a five-year absence.
Greensboro will be trying to build on the season-opening success at the next tournament, the Gordin Classic on Oct. 10-11. It will be played at Grandover Resort – the same course that will be the site of the national championship next May.
The Gordin Classic will feature a good representation of the nation’s best D-3 teams. Guilford College, which finished second in the nationals last spring, wasn’t at the Golfweek Invitational but will be at the Gordin.
The fast start gave Greensboro a lot to build on.
“I think it gives us a lot of confidence,” Fennie said. “But our goals are day by day. It’s my job to keep them focused. It’s not going to be easy at Grandover. In any sport, when you’re number one, you have a target on your back.”