31 Iowa Conference titles
PELLA—The Central College men’s golf team and fourth-year head coach Chad Green are a winning combination, as evidenced by their third consecutive Iowa Conference title and 12th-place finish at the NCAA Division III Men’s Championship—their best finish since 2003.
It was Central’s 31st league crown—27 more than any other school in the conference—posting the low score in each of the four rounds for the second consecutive season en route to a 28-stroke win.
The Dutch graduated their low scorer from the national meet in Justin Livingston, but return their other four starters and nine letterwinners.
While the roster looks good on paper, Green is quick to point out that tournaments are played on the course.
“We have a lot of guys with experience,” said Green. “We’re looking to improve every day, every week and every tournament. Only one of our guys has more than one year of varsity experience and we went through some growing pains this fall. We’re looking to play better this spring.
“There’s a target on our back. The hardest thing to do in sports is to repeat, but we’re looking to do it again.”
Despite the fact that most of its 2013 varsity lineup is intact, it is fluid. In the four fall tournaments, three different Dutch golfers posted the team low.
“It’s a new season with a clean slate,” Green said. “It’s my job to put the best five golfers on the course and that’s what I’m going to do, even if that means changing it up. If someone deserves a top-five spot, he’ll be in the lineup.”
The Dutch step into the tee box March 14-15 at the Illinois-Springfield Invitational at St. Charles, Mo. at the Missouri Bluffs Golf Club.
Two likely mainstays in the Central varsity lineup are 2013 all-conference honorees Desmond Stoll and David Watson, both juniors. Stoll finished third behind Andrew Peter of Luther and teammate Livingston at the league tournament, while Watson finished sixth. The two also counted towards the team total at the national meet with Watson placing 42nd and Stoll tying for 53rd.
Watson also led the Dutch at last fall’s Gordin Classic, against an elite Division III in Ohio, tying for 22nd with 74-74-75—223, and finished with the team’s lowest fall-season average at 75.4. Stoll followed at 76.3.
Five players split time at the other three spots across the four varsity fall tournaments.
Also back from last year’s five-man NCAA tournament lineup are junior Adam Squires and sophomore Jared Nepomuceno. Squires was the team’s No. 2 finisher in a tie for 39th, while Nepomuceno was its fifth and finished tied for 72nd overall.
Each tallied a 78.3 fall average, while Squires posted a team-best 18-hole score 70 with the junior varsity at the Edward Jones William Penn Invitational in October. Nepomuceno holds the team’s career-best 18-hole score 67, recorded last spring.
Others who gained varsity experience last fall were senior Jacob Anderson and juniors Clayton Curwin and Jon Prescott. All three played in the Gordin Classic, with Prescott finishing second on the team and tied for 33rd overall, with Curwin and Anderson tying for 56th.
Anderson also finished second overall at William Penn.
Senior Bryan Laraia and junior Tyler Woodruff complete the list of returning letterwinners. Eight freshmen are on the roster and will find time on the course as well, but it may be difficult to crack the veteran Dutch lineup.
Green is assisted by Clint Brown and Livingston.
Brown is in his 10th season on staff, including a stint as interim head coach in 2010. Central won a league title and qualified for the NCAA Division III tournament under his tutelage.
“Clint’s been on staff longer than I’ve been here,” said Green. “He does a great job with the junior varsity and varsity alike. He’s a good pick-me-up for the team.”
Livingston joins the staff after a stellar career that ended in a tie for 27th at the 2013 national tourney.
“Justin is the best player to ever play for me,” Green said. “He’s done a great job transitioning to coach, teaching our guys the competitive edge and showing them how he prepared for tournaments. Our guys know Justin and they listen to what he has to say.”
Another benefit to the program is the excellent facilities, headlined by the home course, Pella’s Bos Landen Golf Club. The four-star (Golf Digest), par-72 course is located two miles from campus and measures over 7,000 yards. It has been named the top public course in Iowa four times.
“Bos Landen prepares you for difficult courses,” said Green. “It’s a shot-maker’s course and practicing on a hard course makes you better. We will be ready for the challenge of other courses because of our preparation here.”
Central is also one of the only Division III colleges with an on-campus practice range and putting greens. The Ryerson Range, named for late coach Norman “Doc” Ryerson, opened in 2005 and includes two putting greens and practice bunkers, 20 tee boxes and scattered target greens.
The Dutch play a fairly similar schedule as last year, but added two invitationals before the conference tournament in late April-early May. Green believes it provides added preparation for the postseason.
“The more you play, the better you get,” Green said. “Last year we dealt with some weather issues and didn’t play much. This year I wanted to play as much as possible before conference. It will make us a better team.”
While the first two rounds of the league tournament remain at Finkbine GC in Iowa City, the final two rounds will be played at Dubuque Golf & Country Club. It’s a difficult course that promotes control and consistency.
“Hit it straight and keep the ball below the hole,” said Green. “It is very tight with hard greens and unique challenges around those greens. It’s not long, so we need to keep the ball in the fairway. It’s an old course with big trees and provides a significant advantage for the home team.”
Although Central has had a stranglehold on the conference for many years, Green knows that what matters is this year and it’s not going to be easy.
“The Iowa Conference will be tough,” Green said. “It’s the toughest it’s been since I’ve been here. Dubuque and Luther are senior-dominated teams and they’ll be good.
“It’ll be a firefight to see who finishes on top.”
Central’s entire season is on the road and begins mid-March.