It's been a week since the Jamestown Community College golf team finished second at the NJCAA Division III National Tournament, but there have been no on-campus celebrations. Like at most colleges, spring sports teams complete their postseasons after classes are over and there is not much recognition for their accomplishments. However, first-year JCC coach Brett Mucheck discovered the Jayhawks' success was recognized by more than the college community.
''Its been a nice little ride we've been on because everyone in the community, people I don't even know, have come up to me and congratulated me,'' Mucheck said. ''That's been really something special.''
Something special describes JCC's performance at the nationals with only one sophomore, Casey Davidson, and freshmen Andrew Bird, Drew Chaddock, Brenton Wilcox and Jake Yartz. It capped a special season in which the Jayhawks finished first three times, second four times and had three third-place finishes in invitationals. Then, even though JCC receives an automatic bid into the nationals as the host team, the Jayhawks earned their spot by finishing second at the NJCAA Region 3 Division III Tournament.
Jake Yartz of Jamestown Community College and his coach, Brett Mucheck, discuss his shot to the green on the opening hole in the final round of the NJCAA Division III?National Golf Tournament.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
JCC finished second to Monroe CC, which came into the nationals as the three-time defending champion. So the two Region 3 teams were among the favorites and the Jayhawks proved that in the opening round when they were in third place.
The turning point of the tournament for JCC was the second round when the Jayhawks moved into a tie for second place. And they did by overcoming some possible disasters. Yartz shot a 77 with two double-bogeys, Chaddock had a 77 with one double-bogey and Davidson had a 78 with three double-bogeys.
''Those were big saves because those rounds could have been a lot worse,'' Mucheck said. ''I think it was important that we got better that day. We managed to sneak into second that day, as well. I think when we got to second place it gave the guys the idea that we can make a run at this. I think that was a big turning point because it kind of proved something to themselves that even when we're making big mistakes we can find a way to move the ball around the course and get it in the hole and not put up a big number.''
He added, ''That's something we talked about all year, accepting bad shots. It's kind of nice when it came to the pressure time they held up that way.''
In the third round, Yartz had a 1-over-par 73 and Wilcox shot a 75 despite a double-bogey at No. 9, the Jayhawks' finishing hole. And that was one of three doubles at No. 9 for JCC that day.
''That hole kind of beat us up quite a bit,'' Mucheck said.
And it contributed to the Jayhawks dropping into fourth place.
Minnesota State Community & Technical College was in first place with an 18-stroke lead heading into the final round and barring a disaster, it had the title pretty much wrapped up. So Mucheck set the goal of finishing second and hoped his team could shoot a 305 in the final round.
The Jayhawks did better. All five shot in the 70s for a 300, the team's lowest score of the year and a 77 by Chaddock had to be tossed out.
In the past, a 77 for JCC might have been its leading score.
''I thought all year we were capable of shooting in the 290s and it was kind of frustrating that we hadn't,'' Mucheck said. ''It seemed like every tournament two guys were clicking and then the other two just didn't have it. For it to happen on that last day (of the nationals) was like the culmination. It was nice. And boy, they did it when we needed it. I'm glad they saved the best for last.''
He added, ''Honestly, I didn't know if 300 would be good enough to take second. But all I was thinking was I wanted to beat Monroe.''
And the Jayhawks did as the Tribunes finished fourth, four shots behind JCC.
''It really meant a lot,'' Mucheck said about finishing ahead of Monroe. ''All season long they always seemed to get us by like a shot. They had Shane (Dobesh, the individual champion), but outside of Shane we just felt like we had a better overall team.''
And while Monroe had Dobesh, JCC had Yartz, who shot 74-77-73-75-299 to finish fifth and capture NJCAA All-American first-team honors.
Before that final round, Mucheck called each of his golfers aside before they teed off at No. 1 for a little ''heart-to-heart.''
''The message I gave was personal for each one of them and thought out,'' he said. ''It was kind of a culmination of the entire year. It was their last round of the season and I wanted them to know exactly how proud I was of them. It was a personal heart-felt message from me to them.''
A lot of the credit for the team's success goes to Mucheck, who had previously coached at St. Bonaventure. But the Southwestern Central School graduate gives the credit to his golfers.
''I walked into a great situation with these guys,'' he said. ''They can all play.''
That is why Mucheck works on what Bobby Jones called the most difficult 5 inches in the golf - the space between our ears.
''We don't talk a lot about the golf swing and mechanics,'' Mucheck said. ''It's more about handling pressure, the mental side of the game and staying focused in the present for each shot. For me it's more mental with these guys and motivational than it is anything with the golf swing.''
He first met his squad in October and laid out what he expected of them. Then freshman Jordan Farnham approached Mucheck and said, ''Coach, that's a great idea and I'm all for it. But to be honest with you, everyone in this room wants to win the national championship.''
Mucheck recalled, ''That was the first thing these guys ever said to me.''
And from that point he knew it could be a special season.
''From day one, knowing their attitude, I knew we would 'show up,''' Mucheck said.
And now he can look ahead to next season, when he'll have seven freshman back, including four that played in the nationals. And Farnham, who had the team's second-lowest stroke average, but came up one shot short in a team qualifier to determine who would play at nationals.
''Obviously, there's a lot that can happen and you never know, but I feel really confident going into next season,'' was Mucheck's understatement.