The Taylor men’s and women’s golf teams played in two tournaments last week, with the men’s team winning their first tournament of the spring in the Pilot Invitational at Blackthorn Golf Club in South Bend, Indiana.
The men’s team dominated with a 30-shot victory and had four golfers shoot 74 or better, and three go under par on the final day.
Sophomore Noah Ross led the Trojans in the two-day event and shot a 142 across two rounds (72-70). He finished the opening round in third place, and his two-under round in the second round was enough for him to claim his first collegiate victory.
Ross, who started the day in third and was paired with the other two golfers in the top three, was able to focus on catching up as freshman Adam Kasitz and sophomore Drew Pickering sat at fourth and fifth, respectively.
“I like getting in the mindset of going head-to-head with someone, trying to beat them,” Ross said. “So, on the second day I was just trying to slowly gain strokes on the player in front of me, and we’re just going head-to-head all day.”
Ross ended up catching up and moving into the lead on the par-5 9th hole, with an eagle.
Pickering finished in third, Kasitz in fourth and redshirt junior Javan Johnson finished in fifth.
“Blackthorn is a challenging golf course, so for us to shoot under par the final day was a big step in the right direction, especially as we head towards the Crossroads League Championships,” Head Coach Cam Andry said. “I think we’re starting to figure some things out in terms of what each guy needs to do to get in the frame of mind to play great golf.”
The men followed the victory with a second-place showing at the Sagamore Invitational on Monday. Pickering led the Trojans in the 36-hole event with back-to-back rounds of 75. He finished third overall in the tournament. Ross and sophomore Erik Fahlen finished tied for 7th with each shooting 155 combined over the two rounds.
“It felt great to finally break through and get onto the all-tournament team and get a top five (finish),” Pickering said.
The men’s team will finish the regular season with the Ackerman-Allen shootout today, and then move onto the Crossroads League Championships on April 26 and 27.
The fifth-ranked women’s team competed in the Pilot Invitational as well, and then on Monday and Tuesday battled in the Roadrunner Invitational at Nob North Golf Course in northern Georgia.
They garnered second in the Pilot Invitational without NAIA All-American senior Nicole Jung. It was their first time finishing behind a conference opponent since 2017. Senior Maddie Thomas finished third individually with scores of 78 and 77. Senior Taylor French finished in a tie for fifth with rounds of 82 and 77. Seniors Annie Stimmel and Rachel Coers both finished top-15 and freshman Elizabeth Kemper finished at No. 16.
At the Roadrunner Invitational, the Trojans finished fourth behind three NAIA Top-10 opponents. French led the team with scores of 73, 73 and 78 in the three-round event. The performance was good for third place at the tournament. Thomas finished tenth with rounds of 79,75 and 77. Stimmell bookended an 87 with impressive rounds of 73 to finish at 15.
Jung returned from injury and fired 80-81-78 in her rounds.
“We’ve been dealt some curveballs with some injuries this spring, but I’ve been proud of the way we’ve battled through it,” Andry said. “We held our own without Nicole at the Pilot Invitational and we showed some really good stuff at Dalton State this week as well. I think they’re just taking it one step at a time and we’re hoping to peak when the postseason rolls around.”
Andry commended Jung for the way she battled in the Roadrunner Invitational, despite not being 100% and not having much practice time leading into the rounds. He expects her to be completely back for the postseason.
The women’s team will also compete at the Ackerman-Allen shootout today, before battling at the Crossroads League Championships on May 3 and 4.
Both teams are hoping to defend their Crossroads League titles from 2019, after last year’s tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. The women’s team has won three consecutive, while the men’s team has won four consecutive. With wins, both would move onto nationals. The NAIA Men’s National Championship is slated for May 18-21, with the NAIA Women’s National Championship scheduled for May 25-28.
“We haven’t reached our potential yet, but we’re getting close,” Ross said. “The win was a huge confidence booster.”