By Carter Hunt, Staff Writer
Finishing 18 strokes behind eventual SoCon champion ETSU, the Paladins men’s golf team did not finish out the 2015 spring season on the strong note it was looking for.
Last fall, however, the team made strides to improve on its 2016 spring campaign, and the team is hoping to carry its progress over.
The change has started with team improvements across the board. Making up for graduated talent, senior Wehman Hopke played a major role on the team last season and has stepped up to be the team’s leading scorer this year. At the Camden Collegiate Invitational last fall, Hopke led the Paladins with a tenth-place finish.
Finishing third as a team at the invitational, the Paladins received major help from seniors Preston Cole and Bryce Howell, both of whom were starters on the team last season. Perhaps the biggest change is the team’s brand new talent.
Freshman Connor Bruns had an impressive fall season, finishing only a shot back from Cole and Howell at the invitational. Bruns is coming off three state championships from his high school career and is hoping to bring Furman its first SoCon title since the 2010 season.
The Paladins’ spring journey began Feb. 27 at the John Hayte Collegiate Invitational, where 15 teams competed in their first tournaments of the year. While Furman finished thirteenth, they were still able to beat East Carolina and University of Central Florida. The competition in the tournament was arguably much stronger than what the team will face in conference play.
Wehman led the team at the invitational finishing tied for 40th with a score of +11 for the tournament. Freshman Garrison Hogan followed the senior on the score sheet with an outstanding start to his spring career at Furman. Hogan, of Brentwood, Tenn., fired a team best +1 in the final round of the invitational to finish at +13 for the tournament.
Bruns also had a nice tournament finishing at +16 and fourth on the team in his first spring tournament. Both are showing signs of promising collegiate careers as freshmen.
The Paladins season continues next week, March 7-8, as they travel to Aiken, S.C. for the Palmetto Intercollegiate Invitational. The Paladins host their lone tournament of the year March 25-27, which will be one of their final preparation tournaments before the SoCon Championship.