The Harding men’s golf team will play their first tournament of the season in Kiawah Island, South Carolina as part of the Newberry College Invitational. Last year, the team placed 15th out of 19 teams; however, then senior, now graduate assistant Mason Banger placed sixth out of a field of 96. He said the course is challenging but is a great place to play.
“The key to playing the course well is being smart off the tee,” Banger said. “Place yourself in good spots so you can hit a comfortable shot into the green.”
The tournament is on the Ocean Course, which has hosted several Professional Golfers Association (PGA)
events, including multiple PGA championships and a Ryder Cup. Head Coach Dustin Howell said his team is looking forward to getting the chance to play on a top-level course.
“For the guys that are on the team, they aspire to make it onto tour, so they want to play tour level courses,” Howell said. “It’s challenging, but it’s also fun.”
Junior Cooper Dunn said when playing on the Ocean Course, players have to stay sharp and not make mental mistakes. He said the team needs to be patient and take advantage of birdie opportunities.
Win or lose, Dunn is just grateful to have the opportunity to play in this tournament.
“Playing Kiawah is easily one of the highlights of my golf career and life,” Dunn said. “No matter how good or bad I play, I cannot help but smile. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Last year at the tournament was about as close to God as I’ve ever felt on a golf course.”
Other players on the team are anxious to get their first crack at the course.
“I know it’s a hard course, but we’re prepared for it,” sophomore Caleb Nichols said. “Every tournament can help you get better. You get a sense of where your game is at and what you need to do to improve.”
Nichols was redshirted last year and did not travel with the team to South Carolina.
The Newberry College Invitational will go from Feb. 18- 19, and the Bisons will not be in action again until March.