If you’ve turned on your television during the month of March, you probably heard about Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team’s improbable run to a national championship. Regardless of how much you may know about the sport, you can tell who led that team. Senior point guard Shabazz Napier not only was the leading scorer for the Huskies all year, but he consistently set up his teammates for success.
Seniors who have perfected the ever-elusive art of leadership tend to make their teammates better by their very presence. Those who model a work ethic and positive attitude worthy of imitation find that their aura is contagious to those underclassmen following them.
One could say that college golf, as a sort of psuedo-team sport, might not be as affected by these intangible factors as other sports, which require more in-game chemistry and cohesiveness. Though everyone may be playing at the same time in team golf, one individual’s performance doesn’t necessarily have a great impact on a teammate’s performance. You have no one to pass the ball to, set a screen for, or pat you on the back for a good shot in the middle of competition.
Richard Fountain and Sam Echikson are two of the best golfers to come through Davidson and have raised the standards of our golf program day-by-day, shot-by-shot. Yes, their tournament finishes are remarkable and they should both be part of the Davidson Athletics Hall of Fame when the time comes. But I think the rest of our team would agree: their persistence, work ethic and constant encouragement has helped make the entire team better.
When you go to a PGA Tour event and watch those guys play, you come back feeling as though your game somehow improved through osmosis. I get to experience that in practice every day with Richard and Sam. I have tried to pick up Sam’s smooth tempo and demeanor while attempting to emulate those hot streaks Richard inevitably hits somewhere in the middle of a round. Both of them have an incredible desire to be at the course and with the team. Our head coach Tim Straub recently said in a team meeting that our team atmosphere is better than ever, which is due in large part to Richard and Sam’s investment in the well-being of each person on our team.
After a rough tournament April 4-5 at the Irish Creek Intercollegiate, where we finished 11th as a team, we needed direction. Richard, Sam, and Coach Straub in provided vision and encouragement for what the upcoming Southern Conference tournament could be like and how to enjoy the process leading up to that point. Richard and Sam have been like Shabazz Napier for us this year. As they continue to improve and shine, they’ve carried our team and made us all better. Now if we can only pull off a run like the Huskies.