Midland College freshmen golfers Aston Castillo and Bladen Samaniego hope that they will have a successful homecoming next week with their teammates at the NJCAA National Golf Tournament.
The Lubbock-Cooper grads are going to be playing on a course they are very familiar with in The Rawls Course when the four-day national tournament kicks off on Monday on the Texas Tech course.
“I think it’s pretty great that we get to play the national championship in our hometown,” Castillo said.
Added Samaniego about playing the course: “It’s a great confidence booster for sure. I’ve played on it multiple times, so I should know how to get around it.”
In addition to experience that Castillo and Samaniego have, sophomore JT Pittman has played on it a few times since his high school days in Monahans, plus the team played and won the NJCAA Southwest Championship by 13 strokes there in early April with fellow freshman Adam Coull winning the co- individual title.
“We played it four times a month ago,” said MC coach Walt Williams about The Rawls Course. “I think that has to help you, knowing how the course plays and knowing where to hit it. We have several guys who can win it individually. (Samual McKenzie) is ranked No. 1 in the country, JT is a returning all-American, Adam won there a month ago and the two guys from Lubbock have played there throughout their golfing careers. I’m excited to have that opportunity and look forward to see what we can do.”
Added McKenzie, who is from South Africa: “We played about three, four weeks ago at a tournament there in the Southwest Championship and the team played really well. All of us played really good golf. It’s probably the golf course that everyone has played well on. It’s just a good confidence boost going into this week.”
Even without that course familiarity, the Chaps should be one of the favorites going into the tournament as they are coming off a Western Junior College Athletic Conference championship and have been ranked No. 1 for most of the spring season despite only playing half a semester. Going into the tournament, the Chaps are ranked No. 1 by Golfstat and No. 2 behind Hutchinson Community College in the NJCAA Division I men’s golf poll.
Pittman, a UNLV signee and the only returning member from last year’s top-ranked team, said his team doesn’t discuss rankings. He said their focus is getting better every day.
“Every day in practice, we hardly even talk,” Pitman said. “We just do our thing and if we want to go play nine holes, we ask each other and we go play. There’s not much messing around going on in practice.”
Williams said even though the team did not play in the fall because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Chaparrals were able to practice a lot and developed a strong chemistry.
“They all enjoy being with each other and they enjoy each other’s company, so I think the chemistry on the team is really good and that’s a big thing,” he said. “That’s a big plus when you spend a lot of time with each other. It’s nice to get along and laugh.”
Added Angel Guerra, a freshman from Venezuela: “There’s a lot of chemistry. We get along well and we like each other a lot. I have come from a lot of academies and I’ve never seen this before.”
“We’re best of friends,” he said. “We hang out every night and we do things together and have fun. The chemistry is definitely there, a national championship team, for sure.”
The Chaps said the key to having success next week is keeping the right mindset through the 72 holes.
“It’s 18 holes every day, so there’s no need to get off to a hot start,” McKenzie said. “Obviously it’s ideal if you get off to a hot start, but if everyone forces themselves to try and play well on the first 18 holes, you can end up losing the tournament on the first day if you put too much pressure on yourself. If we could all play our game and be patient, the reward will come to us. Every player on our team has the capability to shoot way under par every single round. If we just relax and take our time, I think we’ll get it done.”
Added Coull, a freshman from Australia: “There are a lot of strong teams and we just have stay in there, keep battling and battle to the end. If we can do that, I think we’ll do pretty well.”
Pittman believes that the Chaps have the talent to play even better than they have this semester.
“I feel like we have a very strong team going in,” he said. “I don’t think many people realized that we have yet to play up to our potential. I feel we have a really good shot to be in contention the last day.”
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MIDLAND COLLEGE PLAYER CAPSULES
Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa
Player’s quote: “My game is coming around quite well. I’ve been working on my swing a little bit the last two weeks and it’s really starting to feel like I’m going to do quite well on a consistent basis. I’ve had two tournaments where I finished outside the top 10 and the rest have all been inside the top 10. That’s a nice confidence boost to start my college career.”
Notables: McKenzie will playing in the No. 1 position for the Chaps. … He is second in the NJCAA with a 71.87 scoring average and won the individual title at the TankLogix Intercollegiate at Ranchland Hills Golf Club and the Claude Jacobs Invitational in Victory in March. He also finished third in the eight-round WJCAC Tournament.
Class: SophomorePlayer’s quote: “Obviously this is my first time playing at nationals. I’m not really nervous at all, I’m just more ready to be there already. I had a decent spring, nothing crazy. I finished second in a tournament and I think I had four top 10s. I know it’s there, it’s just a matter of putting it all together. Hopefully it will come together at nationals. “
Notables: The UNLV signee and most experienced golfer will be playing in the No. 2 spot for the Chaps. … He is ranked No. 15 among NJCAA golfers with a 73.71 scoring average. … Pittman was part of the No. 1-ranked MC team in 2020 but the season was cut short because of the pandemic. As a freshman he was named as an honorable mention PING NJCAA All-American.
Player’s quote: “In the last tournament I finished fourth and I’ve been playing pretty well. The fact that we’ll be playing on our home course in Lubbock, I think will be pretty good. I finished in the top 10 in every event except for the Division I tournament (Colin Montgomery HBU Invitational).”
Notables: Castillo will be playing in the No. 3 position for the Chaps. … He ranks 14th in the NJCAA with a 73.56 scoring average. … A graduate of Lubbock-Cooper High School, Castillo will be playing in his hometown.
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Player’s quote: “My game is pretty good. I would like to see if I can have fun this week. I really like the guys on the team, good friendships, we get along really well and I think that helps us to compete. We push each other and there’s nothing that can keep us down.”
Notables: Coull will be playing in the No. 4 position for the Chaps and goes in with a 73.92 scoring average. … Coull has four top 10 finishes and was the co-champion at the NJCAA Southwest Championship at The Rawls Couse last month with a 7-under par 209.
Hometown: LubbockClass: Freshman
Player’s quote: “I feel pretty good. I’ve been hitting the ball really well. I just came off two top 10s in tournaments, so I’m feeling pretty good about my game and I’m ready to compete. We just came off winning conference, so we’re in high spirits and ready to get it done.”
Notables: Samaniego will be playing in the No. 5 spot for the Chaps. … He has three top 10 finishes and has a 74.99 scoring average. … Like Castillo, Samaniego is a Lubbock-Cooper grad and will be playing on his hometown course.
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Player’s quote: “I feel really good about my game. I have been playing really solid. We just need to keep our heads in it and keep that winning mindset. We need to keep doing what we have done throughout the year.”
Notables: Guerra is the alternate on the team. … Guerra has a 75.20 scoring average, two top 10 finishes and won the WJCAC Invitational in Odessa in March. … He’s originally from Venezuela and originally a Sam Houston State University commit, but because of COVID-19, he went the junior college route and came to MC.
Midland College history at nationals
This is the 33rd consecutive year Midland College has qualified for the NJCAA Men’s Golf Championship Tournament. No tournament was held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the history of how the Chaparrals placed with first team all-Americans in parentheses.
1990 3rd (Dean Robertson)
1991 2nd (Darren Eckhardt, Andrew Coltart)
1992 Champion (Steve Armstrong, Grant Thompson)
1994 2nd (Chad Campbell)
1995 Champion (Derrick Pursley, Graham Davidson)
1996 4th (Davidson)
2000 2nd (Ernie Rose)
2006 Champion (Kevin Carrigan, Nils Bjorling)
2007 2nd (Leroux Ferreira)
2008 Champion (David Thomas, medalist champion; Patrick Solberg)
2009 Third (Tommy Sikes, medalist champion)
2010 Tied for 11th
2014 6th (David Wicks)
2015 16th (David Wicks)
2017 4th (Stefan Cronje)
2018 3rd (Callum Bruce, Alex Motes)
2019 3rd (Callum Bruce, George Saunders)
Other Midland College all-American selections
Second team — Michael Salazar (2018, 2017), Ben Murray (2016), Tyson Turnbow (2012), Neil Gowan (2011) Van Snyman (2007, 2006), Hamilton Wheeler (2003), Andrew Lanahan (2003), Lee Rhind (2001), Kenneth Ferrie (1999, 1998), Derrick Pursley (1996), Euan Little (1995), Jason Brooks (1994), Stephen Dundas (1993), Shawn Savage (1993), Mark Kochan (1990), Dean Robertson (1989)
Third team — Lucas McCubbin (2016), Heinrich Frylinck (2009), J.R Reyes (2001), James Clive (1996), Jason Garduno (1995)
Honorable mention — Max Charles (2019), Sean Lawrie (2012), Luke Richardson (2011), Kevin Carrigan (2007), Greg Bowden (2005), Lane Branum (2003), Kevin Hofer (2000), Russell Wrentz (2000), J.C. Hernandez (1992), Mike Johnson (1989)
Runners-up — Wicks (2014), Rose (2000), Pursley (1995), Thompson (1992), Coltart (1991) and Robertson (1990)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama women’s golf standout Benedetta Moresco was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year while also collecting First Team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman accolades, as the league office announced the 2021 SEC Women’s Golf Awards Friday morning. In addition to Moresco’s honors, Mary Mac Trammell was recognized as she earned a spot on the SEC Community Service Team.
Moresco becomes the fifth Crimson Tide representative to win SEC Freshman of the Year and the 11th golfer to earn a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team, joining her sister Angelica Moresco who earned the accolade in 2018. Furthermore, with Benedetta’s first-team recognition, Alabama has now had 26 first team All-SEC selections over the past 14 seasons dating back to 2006.
SEC Freshman of the Year, First Team All-SEC, SEC All-Freshman Team
Mary Mac Trammell
SEC Community Service Team
The deadline to enter the 104th Michigan Open Championship is 5 p.m. May 12.
The tournament will be played June 14-17 at The Bear near Traverse City.
There are nine qualifying events. The entry fee is $180 for amateurs, $205 for Michigan PGA professionals and $355 for non-PGA professionals and players can register by clicking here.
The qualifying tournaments are May 18 at Country Club of Lansing, May 19 at Marriott at Eagle Crest, May 20 at Spring Meadows, May 24 at Forest Akers West, May 25 at Pheasant Run, June 2 at The Moors and June 6 at Blake Lake Golf Club.
There will also be a qualifier for PGA members only May 19 at Forest Lake as well as a three-spot qualifier June 12 at Traverse City Golf & Country Club, which can be used as a first or second to qualify.
This will be the record 32nd time the tournament has been played on The Bear at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
Brett White, a mini-tour pro from Caledonia, is the defending champion. Local mini-tour pro Alex Scott of Traverse City was last year’s runner-up.
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