PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – If the athletic director hadn’t been in the room, Preston Cole would’ve thought it was a joke. A bad joke, at that. The sophomore from Greer, S.C., sat in disbelief at the news that men’s golf was being eliminated at Furman.
“I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be,” Cole said Monday of the possibility of having to leave the school in Greenville, S.C.
Fast forward 17 days to the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational, where the Paladins are making their spring debut at Sawgrass Country Club under a cloud of uncertainty.
As Cole and his teammates walked the soggy fairways of Sawgrass, Paladins alumni continued to work behind the scenes with the school’s administration and Board of Trustees to find long- and short-term solutions to the program’s budgetary concerns.
• • •
- Furman alumni make pitch to save men’s golf
- Furman coach ‘dumbfounded’ about program’s end
- Furman to drop men’s golf after spring season
- Furman opens spring with resolve to rise above uncertainty
• • •
“I think we’ll find a path forward,” said Rob Langley, a 2005 Furman graduate who has helped spearhead the reinstatement efforts. Earlier reports suggested that close to $300,000 needed to be raised in the coming months to keep the program intact for the 2014-15 season.
Players from other teams at Sawgrass have been encouraging Furman to play well despite the school’s decision. The Paladins carried their heads high and gave thoughtful, mature answers to heavy questions for any young man.
“Whether they want to admit it or not, they’re still feeling a lot of emotions,” head coach Todd Satterfield said. “And they’re feeling the pressure.”
Pressure to perform well for the thousands of Furman faithful across the country who have shown their support. Pressure to prove to the administration that they’re worth the investment.
“We’ve taken it upon ourselves to deal with this in a good way,” said Cole, whose older brother Spencer played for Alabama and Rollins. “Not to let it get under our skin.”
The Paladins struggled to put four scores together at the Hayt, the story of their season, Satterfield said. The team finished the second round in a tie for 13th, beating only Jacksonville in the 15-team field. Overall, Oklahoma State shot 13-under 563 and holds a three-shot lead over Central Florida.
Freshman Bryce Howell led Furman with rounds of 74-71. Howell, 19, from Blythewood, S.C., said he already has spoken with several coaches about transferring but won’t make any decisions until he hears more details on Furman’s future.
“You think you’re done with all that,” Howell said of shopping for schools.
Satterfield said he lost one incoming freshman for next year to SMU but, so far, the other two signees plan to enroll at Furman if the program can be saved.
Ironically, Satterfield felt like he’d finally gotten some momentum of late thanks to recent increases in his budget. He was hopeful for the 2015 class, and simply waiting on word from the school’s admissions office before landing commitments.
Satterfield, in his 18th year at Furman, described the support he has received in recent weeks as overwhelming. Even coaches from other programs have donated money to the Furman cause, Satterfield said.
The Paladins are a close-knit team, and Satterfield thinks his players’ ultimate desire is to stay together. But, he also realizes there are many factors that will go into each of their decisions.
For now, Satterfield’s main focus is to remind his team why they love to play golf. He wants them to view the golf course as their sanctuary, a place to escape the uncertainty that envelops his program. And, along the way, show them how to handle an adverse situation.
Cole brought up another goal for the next two months: win the Southern Conference title.
“It would be great to go out on top if that’s the way it goes,” Cole said.
Or the perfect way to open the next chapter of Furman golf.