By Andy Zunz, Golfweek.com
After storming through the stroke-play portion of the 2013 NCAA Division II National Championships, Florida Southern’s men’s golf team found itself in unfamiliar territory.
Playing for the national championship as a favorite was nothing new for head coach Doug Gordin and his team – he has led the program to five national titles since 1995. It was the format that bit the Moccasins.
After playing at a high level for 72 holes, Florida Southern moved on to the match-play portion of the championship. The team made an early exit, falling in the quarterfinals to Western Washington on a tiebreaker.
“It certainly was a disappointment because we felt all year like we were one of the best teams and had a chance to win the thing,” Gordin said. “The two teams that ended up in the final match, both of them had played in the championship the year before, so they had experience in that format. I think that is a huge advantage. Now that I’ve been through it, I think I know what the best way is to approach it.”
Said senior Tim Crouch: “The entire season we’ve never seen match play; it’s way different for everybody. We played really well all throughout stroke play and then had to start all over again with match play. My coach said it’s like us winning the Masters then coming out the next day and having to win the U.S. Open.”
Now, the team comes back with three of its five national-championship performers, including Crouch, who won the individual national championship last season.
“Nobody’s expectations are bigger than [Crouch’s] are,” Gordin said. “He fully expects to be one of the best if not the best player in Division II. He had a great summer and played in a lot of big amateur tournaments very well.”
Crouch’s summer slate included the Sunnehanna Amateur, U.S. Amateur and Porter Cup, where he took an eighth-place finish.
“Winning the national championship has really opened a lot of doors for me,” Crouch said. “Playing in those big events and being able to play against the elite players in the country has built my confidence up for next year.”
Sophomore Austin Schultz and senior Shane Convery join Crouch as the main returning contributors.
The trio might need to elevate its game this season to match its in-state competition. The three top-finishing teams in stroke play at the national championships were from the state of Florida – showing the state’s high level of play.
“It’s unbelievable. If you talk to any coach of a team in Florida, they’ll tell you the same thing,” Gordin said. “The good thing is that you play against those teams all year and if you’re able to compete with them, you feel like you have a chance to win the national championship. It’s a good barometer for you all throughout the year.
“I don’t know how many times the national championship team has come from Florida, but it’s got to be a lot.”
In fact, 21 teams from the state of Florida have won the Division II national championship since 1963.
Florida Southern accounts for 12 of those titles. And Gordin hasn’t forgotten about his school’s history.
“I think there are a certain number of teams that start the year the same way every year and we’re one of those,” Gordin said. “Our goal is to win the national championship. Period. If you don’t reach that goal, then the season is a disappointment.”