The first time was a charm for the Minnesota State Community and Technical College Spartans last year.
Minnesota State, located in Fergus Falls, Minn., made it's first appearance in the NJCAA Division III Golf Championships and left with the title. The Spartans finished in first place with a 1,224 total for 72 holes, 18 shots in front of host JCC.
''We knew that we had a very good and talented team and we knew that team that had come out of our region had competed very well,'' Minnesota State coach Jason Retzlaff said, referring to teams such as Central Lake CC that won the Division III title in 2005. ''So we knew coming out of our region, (Region 13) if we played well we'd be in the thick of and we played great golf and went from there.''
The Minnesota State Community and Technical College Spartans will begin defending their title at the NJCAA Division III National Golf Championships today. From left are coach Jason Retzlaff, Lucas Gervais, Taylor Shuck, Brandon Sletmoen, Rob Goff and alternate Brady Robertson.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
Minnesota State was an unknown last year, but when the 2013 NJCAA Division III Golf Championships open today on the Lake Course at Chautauqua Golf Club, the Spartans will be very well known.
''It's kind of neat to know we did good things last year and if there's a target on our back, that's OK,'' Retzlaff said.
He added, ''It's obviously different having been through it last year. We talked about how this team has to have its own identity. Last year was great and it was a wonderful experience, but even though we have two players back from last year, it's a different group. The idea is to try to put yourself in the position to have a chance to win going into the last day.''
The two returnees from last year's championship team, Lucas Gervais and Taylor Shuck, were also the Spartans' top two golfers from last year's national champions. Gervais finished fourth in last year's tournament with a 298 tournament to earn first-team All-American honors. Shuck finished 10th and was a second-team All-American.
They are also the top two on this year's team, which averages 316. Gervais leads the Spartans with a 76 average and Shuck averages 79.
''Hopefully we can kind of feed off of them and know that they're going to be the nucleus that we can build around for the tournament,'' Retzlaff said.
Also on this year's team for the nationals are freshmen Brandon Sletmoen (80), Rob Goff (81) and Brady Robertson (82).
''We got to Chautauqua a lot easier this year than we did last year,'' Retzlaff said. ''That was nice.''
That's because the Spartans won the Region 13 title by 16 shots.
However, they captured that championship on Oct. 2 to end their fall season and they haven't played a competitive match since. Retzlaff was not only concerned about his golfer being rusty from not playing, but mainly rusty from not competing.
However, there is a good reason the golf season in Region 13 is in the fall.
''Our home course was not open until May first or second of sometime around there,'' Retzlaff said. ''We would not have had a season if we had spring golf.''
The action begins today at 9 a.m. on both the first and 10th tees and continues through Friday and includes 88 golfers from 34 colleges and 13 states.
Host JCC will start at No. 1 today with Jake Yartz at 9:40 a.m., Brenton Wilcox at 9:48, Jordy Farnham at 9:56, Drew Chaddock at 10:04 and Andrew Bird at 10:12.
The Jayhawks will start at No. 10 on Wednesday with Bird at 9:40 a.m., Chaddock at 9:48, Farnham at 9:56, Wilcox at 10:04 and Yartz at 10:12.