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This is why Methodist is a D-III powerhouse

HAINES CITY, Fla. – Five players suited up for Methodist Tuesday at the Golfweek Division III Fall Invitational. There are countless others back in Fayetteville, N.C., that didn’t get the chance.

According to coach Steve Conley, there are nearly 80 players that annually try out for the Methodist men’s team, but only 15 make the squad. Of those 15, only five are allowed to tee it up at each tournament.

Part of the reason for the high numbers at tryouts is that Methodist has the fourth-oldest Professional Golf Management program in the nation, with more than 300 students enrolled.

“Maybe 30 are legitimate contenders for a spot,” Conley said. “There are a lot of guys who can break 80, but that’s not all it takes to win championships.”

Winning championships is something Conley has grown accustomed to during his tenure at Methodist. The Monarchs won nine out of 10 Division III national crowns in the 1990s and ended an 11-year drought with another title last year.

That type of history, paired with the golf-centric atmosphere the PGM program creates at Methodist, has led to a program that rebuilds itself each year without losing a step. Even after losing four seniors from last year’s squad, the Monarchs still ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek preseason coaches’ poll.

After two rounds at Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club, Methodist was fifth, 13 shots behind Greensboro College.

“A lot of the guys don’t realize what an honor or privilege it is to play for us,” junior Robby Bruns said. “We truly enjoy it. It’s a pretty big deal for us.”

With so many players aiming for spots on the team, Conley has been able to ration his talent and let his players mature before throwing them into competition.

“It’s tough (to make the team), especially if you’re young,” said senior Alex Weir, the only returning player from last year’s national championship team. “I didn’t play at all my freshman year and I only played in three (events) my sophomore year. (Conley) is big on experience so you’ve got to be ready to go and if you’re not, you can’t play.”

For many top-notch high school players, playing Div. III in college can seem like a disappointment. That’s not how the Methodist players look at it.

“Everybody wants to play Division I,” Bruns said. “I think for me, it was the PGM program that drew me in and the golf team definitely had a huge advantage, too. There really wasn’t a bad part about it.”

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