5 Things: Conley's homecoming at Sandestin
Editor's note: For our preview of the Golfweek Fall Invitational, including all of the teams involved, click here.
The October weather and scenery at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort in Sandestin, Fla., are enough to get anyone excited. For Steve Conley, head coach of Methodist University, the chance to play in the Golfweek Fall Invitational means even more.
“This is a homecoming for me,” he said. “I grew up here and went to Destin Elementary School and Fort Walton Beach High School. I used to run carts out here on (Sandestin’s Links course). It’s one of my favorite places.”
Conley, whose father used to be head of security at Sandestin “back in the day,” is now at the head of one of the most successful Division III programs in the country. Methodist boasts 10 national championships and looks to be in the running for another this year.
Ranked No. 2 in the early Golfstat rankings, Methodist is fresh off a 14-shot win at the Division III NCAA Preview, which features many of the same Division III teams that will tee it up on Sandestin’s Raven Golf Course this week.
“We’ve got a lot of depth and experience from last year’s team, and so I feel like we should be competitive in any event we play this year,” Conley said.
CHART TOPPERS: While Methodist may seem like the team to beat, UT-Tyler is the nation’s top-ranked team after winning it’s first two events of the season, each by 16 shots.
“That’s pretty special for us,” coach King Campbell said. “We’ve never been in this position before, but our first two tournaments, we played pretty well.”
Jacob Walsh and John Dukes will lead the way for the Patriots this week, with Cody Gonzalez, Trent Boudoin and Joey Rippel filling out the lineup.
“Our first two events didn’t have the field that this week’s event had, so we are definitely looking forward to the challenge,” Campbell said.
DAMAGED PRIDE: Greensboro College is the defending champion of the Golfweek Fall Invitational, a victory that spring-boarded the Pride to a Division III national championship last year. This year may be a different story, as Greensboro lost senior and defending medalist Brock Elder to graduation.
"It’s a different crew. We’re still just trying to feel everything out,” coach Dirk Fennie said. “Our lineup’s changed even since last week. We didn’t play very well in our first event (T-10 at the Preview), and I think a lot of that was the anxiousness that comes with being the national champions. The new guys have to settle in and start feeling comfortable.”
WHAT DAY IS IT?: It’s not enough to change hole locations at the par-3 16th on the Raven Golf Club. Depending on the day, golfers may be playing an entirely different hole.
After a land dispute, a piece of property that used to be a dogleg par 4 was turned into a pair of par 3s – 16a and 16b. Hole 16a is played on even-numbered days and 16b is played on odd days.
No. 16b, the shorter of the two at 146 yards, will be used this week for the tournament.
BRING YOUR SUNGLASSES: As long as you don’t mind a sea breeze, the weather couldn’t get much better at Sandestin.
Temperatures were in the low 80s with 13-mph winds during Saturday’s practice round, and forecasts are for similar weather in Sunday’s first round, with winds increasing to 20 mph. The chance of rain increases to 40 percent on Monday or Tuesday, according to weather.com.