GMC Golf Team’s Unity Helped Bring Home National Title
GMC golf team’s unity helped bring home national title
By Keich Whicker – The Union-Recorder
On Sunday morning, the morning of the final round of NJCAA Division III national golf tournament at Chautauqua Golf Course in Chautauqua, N.Y., Georgia Military College’s Brendan O’Connell told his teammates at the hotel, “Let’s go and get it done.”
O’Connell knew that although GMC still led the tournament by 10 strokes heading into the final round, the Bulldogs had failed to put away second-place Madison Area Technical College and surrendered three shots off their lead on Saturday.
“There weren’t really any nerves,” O’Connell recalled on Monday. “We just wanted to get the job done.”
For all their enthusiasm, GMC started poorly on Sunday and looked to be floundering until Scott Anthony knocked down a birdie on the 11th hole.
“The moment for us came when Scott Anthony birdied the 11th and the kid he was playing with bogeyed,” said Sonny Harmon, GMC’s head coach. “As soon as word of that got around, it was like a shot of adrenaline. All the boys picked up on that and their confidence shot up.”
Sunday wasn’t the first time Anthony, whose rounds of 80, 76, 74 and 78 were good enough to earn him an All-American honorable mention, seemed to be the yardstick for GMC. His game, which started off slow on Thursday, peaked in the middle rounds on Friday and Saturday and was good enough for the win on Sunday, mirrored the Bulldogs’ march to their first-ever golf championship almost exactly.
“However I played against the Madison guy I was paired up with seemed to be the way the tournament went for us overall,” Anthony said.
GMC’s historic victory capped an impressive turnaround that saw the Bulldogs rebound from a three-stroke deficit on Thursday.
“At the end of day one, we were down three strokes,” Harmon said. “We went back to the hotel and I said to them, ‘Look, this is no big deal. We can do better than this.'”
O’Connell, who garnered All-American honors after shooting a four-day score of 291 for the best individual score at the tournament, remembers he and the team understood their coach and knew what they had to do when they teed-off on Friday.
“We knew we had to come out strong in the second round,” he said. “We knew that it had to be our best round of the tournament.”
And it was.
Thanks in part to O’Connell’s round of 69 and Ballard Shearer’s round of 74, GMC stormed to a 13-stroke lead over Madison with a 295 in the second round.
Saturday saw the Bulldogs stumble, but any memory of that hiccup went out the window when Anthony, Kyle Dickey, Andrew Keel, O’Connell and Shearer lifted the trophy on Sunday.
“The last day we shot a 317, which is horrible for this team,” Harmon said, “but we held on for the win.”
“Sure, you can always play better,” Anthony said. “There’s always something you can work on, something you can improve, but we played well enough to win, so I’m happy with how we did.”
There’s a bit of disparity between the players and the coach about how well the Bulldogs believed they would do heading into the tournament.
“We knew we could get in the top five teams,” Harmon said.
“I guess coach said that to sound modest,” Anthony said with a chuckle. “For myself, and for every other member of the team, we went up there to win it. There was no other way. We looked at scores from the past, and the records, so we felt real confident about our goal to win. There was no other goal. Not a single person on the team would have been happy with second place.”
“I thought we had the best talent out there,” O’Connell echoed. “I honestly expected us to play better than we did.”
If nothing else, the player’s unity of opinion shows how much they thought alike all season, something Anthony and O’Connell believe helped them lift the national trophy.
“What won it for us plain and simple was team unity,” O’Connell said. “Everybody got along so well together that everyone ended up best friends.”
“We meshed really well, both in our golfing talents and in our personalities,” Anthony said. “There was never any arguing, never any debate on the team. We all genuinely supported each other. I’ve never been on a team where there was that kind of camaraderie.”
Harmon also spoke about his team’s character and praised the players as competitors and people.
“Their demeanor on the course was fantastic,” he said. “They were gentleman the whole week. They represented our school (GMC) the way in which we expect our school to be represented. When we send our teams out, we expect them to behave a certain way and these boys did that. They gave a good accounting of themselves on the golf course and in the community up there. I think everyone there liked the fact they won the tournament. What does that tell you?”
To reach sports writer Keich Whicker, call him at (478) 453-1465.
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