Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 4, 2013

Concord golf team seeded second in regional tourney

ATHENS — The Concord University men’s golf team knows what the postseason is like.

Their coach thinks this year’s effort may stand out from the others.

Will Johnson, the West Virginia Conference golf coach of the year, said the current quest for victory at the super regional level feels different.

“To start with, this is a very good team we have,” Johnson said, “and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team that works so hard. They’re always wanting to get out onto a course and to get better. That’s a good feeling for a coach.”

Concord is seeded second among the 10 Atlantic Region teams in the NCAA Division II Atlantic-East super regional championships set to start on Monday at Oglebay Park in Wheeling.  The third and final round is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Mountain Lions won the last West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s golf title last Oct. 16, claiming one of two automatic bids in the 20-team super regional.

Bluefield State is seeded fourth. Other West Virginia Conference schools still in the field are No. 3 seed Davis & Elkins and No. 7 Charleston. The top seed went to Indiana (Pa.), champions of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

Johnson said that the Oglebay Park course is a familiar one to his golfers.

“All of our guys have played there before,” he said. “It’s a very hard course, I think. But if you’ve played there before, that’s about half the battle.”

The course “has got a lot of doglegs and undulation,” he said. “The fairways are a little tight. The greens have pins in difficult places. There’s not a lot of room for error.”

He said the team has been “tremendous” in its work tuning up for the postseason. “We’ve played at The Greenbrier, and at Pipestem. The people at all the courses we’ve practiced have been very helpful.”

“We’re just trying different greens, different fairways, and working from there.”

He said it’s been “enjoyable” watching his players go after their task.

“Some days, you’ll have bad days, and you just have to keep grinding out there. And I’ve watched them just dig in and keep grinding and grinding. This is a unique team.”

The competition, primarily from the Mountain State and the Keystone State, is “going to be tough,” Johnson said. “And what makes it even more tough, last year they took five teams (to compete in the national championships from the region). This year, they’re only taking three teams.”

With many tournaments already behind this veteran team, the coaching at this point is almost exclusively mental.

“We just want them to stay positive and stay focused,” Johnson said. He is dealing with a team that takes its academic obligations seriously, and semester exams are just around the corner in Athens.

“These are really smart kids, and they have finals coming up,” their coach said. “I tell them when they get on the course, there’s nothing they can do about it there. Just focus on golf.”

It’s not all golf at the super regional level. Johnson said, “When they have down time, they’ll be able to eat and laugh and have fun. But you’ve got to be able to turn it on and turn it off.”

“We want them to relax, and then go out and play. Once they’re there, they need to concentrate.”

The team strategy appears designed to minimize the pressure for wire-to-wire domination in Wheeling.

“We just want to stay in the hunt,” Johnson said. “We know they say you can’t lose it on the first day, but you sure can put yourself in a bind. We just want to be there (contending) on the third day.”

The team planned to leave Athens Sunday morning and play a practice round at Oglebay on Sunday afternoon.

The top three teams from the super regional advance to the national championship rounds, scheduled for May 20-24 at the Hershey Country Club East Course in Hershey, Pa.

About the time the men's team will be arriving in the Wheeling area, Concord women's golfer Stephanie Peareth will be competing in the women's super regional in Joliet, Ill. That event is slated to run through Tuesday.

She qualified as an individual after being honored as the No. 1 individual golfer in the Division II East Region.

— Contact Tom Bone at tbone@bdtonline.com

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