Men's preview: Ohio Valley Conference

Men's preview: Ohio Valley Conference

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Men's preview: Ohio Valley Conference

Like many college golfers, David Lawrence got a lot of letters from universities urging him to take his athletic abilities to their campuses.

However, all of those letters concerned his talents as an outfielder. They weren’t really interested in whether or not he could hit a high fade.

Growing up in Moline, Ill., Lawrence played baseball for as long as he can remember. He was a rising star on his high school team, being moved up to the varsity squad early and making a switch from second base to the outfield. That move would prove disastrous, however, as Lawrence blew out his knee while chasing a fly ball during his sophomore year. He was sidelined, made what he thought was a full recovery and he returned to the field, once again taking aim at the opposite-field gap and running down fly balls. At least for a little while.

“Exact same injury,” Lawrence said. “I just sat on the couch. Devastated.”

Lawrence was given the option to have major reconstructive knee surgery, but he held off, weighing his options. That’s when he remembered one of his hidden talents: he was pretty good at golf.

“I had always played with my dad growing up, but we never took it too seriously,” Lawrence said. “But after the injury, I wanted to get out and do something, so I started playing more and developed a passion for it.”

After giving up baseball and opting against surgery, Lawrence put everything into golf, becoming an Illinois all-stater as a senior, only his second year of organized golf. Because of the short notice, he was hardly recruited to play golf in college.

He finally got some interest from Eastern Illinois head coach Mike Moncel, who “liked the potential that he saw” and gave Lawrence a chance.

Lawrence is now halfway through his senior year with the Panthers, and it’s clear that Moncel made the right decision. Lawrence had two victories and a runner-up finish in the fall, earning his first collegiate titles at the Wasioto Winds Fall Kickoff and the SIU-Edwardsville Invitational.

“To be honest, I expected to win this year,” Lawrence said. “It was the first time I’d felt that way, but I had a good summer and was feeling great.”

Part of that summer success was at the Northern Amateur, where he was tied for the first-round lead after an opening 66.

“That was kind of the wake-up call. . . Just knowing that I could compete with all of these guys that I had spent the past few years reading about.”

It’s uncertain what the spring holds for Lawrence, who says that he’s now used to playing his best golf at the end of the fall.

“Living in Illinois, your game gets as good as it can right at the end of the fall and then winter hits and you’re stuck inside for three months, while all the guys in the South are just getting better,” he said. “So it usually takes some time to knock the rust off in the spring.”

So, the golf seems to have worked out, but is there any part of him that misses the baseball career that he had once dreamed about?

“At the time of the injury, I thought my life was over,” Lawrence said. “But it’s turned out to be one of the biggest blessings I have.”

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Past champions

2007: Jacksonville State

2008: Eastern Kentucky

2009: Austin Peay

2010: Murray State

2011: Jacksonville State

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Conference capsules

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Complete coverage

Wondering how your favorite conference is shaping up headed into the spring season? Who is our favorite to pick up the automatic qualifier? Check out our conference-by-conference break down with our complete coverage page here.

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