The Saint Leo University Men’s Golf team has opened their season well. Going into the season as the defending National Champion is definitely a new feeling for the Lions that made history in May of 2016. The Team of Hugo Bernard, Liam Ainsworth, Joey Savoie, Riley Goss, and Griffin Clark won the first National title in school history by beating Chico State in a thrilling final round in Denver, Colorado.
From the Championship winning team, only Bernard and Goss are left. Ainsworth graduated in spring, Savoie transferred to a Division I school, and Griffin Clark tragically passed away over summer. Head Coach Chris Greenwood had some work to do in order to form a team that would be able to meet the high expectations.
“Our team is younger and has less experience than the team did last year. We had such a strong team last year, that now the guys that maybe didn’t get a chance to play will play a lot this year and have to contribute. The good thing is that we compete against each other every day so any one of our new faces had beaten those old faces at some point,” said Senior Casey Bannon.
Starting off with being the number one ranked team in the Nation the Lions opened their season with the Saint Leo Invitational. The Lions registered a team and three individuals to give more players the chance to play and gain important experience for the upcoming season. The Lions came in eighth place.
The reigning individual national champion and freshman of the year, Bernard, was not able to attend due to the fact that he was playing at the World Amateur Team Championship (WATC) in Mexico to represent his home country, Canada.
On the Lake Jovita Golf Course, Colin Warren was the best placed Lion, finishing eleventh with a score of 215 (-1). However, he was registered as an individual, which is why he did not score for the team. Best scoring athlete of the team was Bannon, who finished thirteenth followed by Ryan Gendron and Noah Purvis.
The second tournament for the Men’s Golf team was the Division II National Preview in Kissimmee, Florida, which was hosted by Saint Leo University in collaboration with the Central Florida Sport Commission and Experience Kissimmee. Being ranked down to place seven in the Nation after the first tournament of the season the Lions were looking forward to show their full potential.
As expected, Bernard was leading the Lions with a three-way tie for first with two players from Florida Southern. Southern’s John Coultas won the playoff hole with a birdie on the first one. Bernard was followed by Goss in tenth, and Bannon tied for 31st. In the end, the Lions were able to move up on the last 18 holes to tie for fifth out of the 18 Teams that played the National Preview.
The Lions are looking good for the early season, but still have a lot of room to improve in order to be able to compete with the best teams in the Nation. Next to top-performer Bernard, Bannon and Goss are two great players to look out for during the 2016-’17 golf season.
“It’s just a matter of making every day count, taking advantage of our time, and being in the right frame of mind once we go the course. If we can commit as a group this team can do anything it wants this season,” said Bannon.