By: Hayden Cox, Columnist
The nationally ranked women and SoCon title hopeful men are back in action for the 2017-2018 academic year. The women, ranked 9th in the NCAA, are fresh off a wicked 3rd round comeback at home in the Lady Paladin Invitational to capture their first victory this season against 16 tough opposing teams.
The men also recently finished up their first tournament, a rust buster at the Golfweek Conference Challenge on Sept. 19th, where they were led by senior Hunter Nichols and sophomore Keller Harper, both tying for 30th.
The women’s team returns all but one teammate from an incredible 12th place finish at the NCAA Championships last year, the highest national finish of any Furman athletic team in recent memory. After winning three SoCon championships in a row, the Paladins look beyond the conference and have set their sights on one of the greatest achievements in sports: an NCAA National Championship.
Arguably the most impressive team on campus, with consistent national ranks, strong GPAs and excellent records of community service, the women’s golf team are led by returning seniors Jacqueline Bendrick, Alice Chen and Reona Hirai. Also returning is junior Haylee Harford, who finished tied for 8th in the National Championship last May. All are already eyeing perennial golf powerhouses, such as Duke, Alabama and UCLA in their quest for a National Title.
“We all share a very strong work ethic—we want to succeed and are willing to put in the time and effort to be the best team in the nation. We are also really lucky to have fantastic coaches with strong technical backgrounds to help us with swing mechanics and cutting edge putting techniques, such as aim point, which uses the physics of slopes to enable us to better read greens,” said Bendrick, a biology major who hopes to play professionally after graduation before returning to school to earn a PhD.
The men also return a strong roster, led by Nichols and fellow senior Alex Taylor. The men hope to compete well against conference rivals UT-Chattanooga and ETSU to add another success to the program’s 13 Southern Conference titles. Like their counterparts on the women’s side, the men know that success takes work.
Recalling his freshman year, Nichols tells a story of miserable conditions when he was out on the golf course with his teammates in 30 degree weather and blowing rain. The weather gave birth to the most meaningful moment of his Furman Golf career when Coach Satterfield, now in his 22nd year with the Paladins, turned to Nichols and said, “Show me why you deserve to be here and prove to yourself that you can do it.”
“Those words have stuck with me through everything,” said Nichols, who, along with his teammates, understands the importance of making the most of every opportunity.
After losing former teammate Blake Hadden, who tragically passed last May, the men take nothing for granted. “It made us realize how precious our time is on Earth,” said Nichols. “We have a little more to fight for this year.” Their attitude is clear from their work ethic, as anyone who has been up before dawn this year can affirm, the team has been out doing stadiums as early as six in the morning, giving it everything they have to achieve another SoCon title.
With experience at the helm and plenty of talent, both our Women’s and Men’s golf teams continue to represent our university well. both on and off the course. Keep an eye out for them as they prepare for the SoCon Championships in April and the NCAA Championships in May.