The Edmond Sun

April 18, 2014

OCU takes confidence into SAC men’s golf championships

Edmond’s Verplank averages 73 for Stars

Special to The Sun

AMARILLO, Texas — Oklahoma City University enters the Sooner Athletic Conference men’s golf championships Monday and Tuesday at Tascosa Golf Club’s LaPaloma Course coming off an historic performance.

In the Oklahoma Baptist Invitational, the Stars shot a program-record 265 in the first round en route to setting OCU records for strokes under par in a 36-hole tournament at 29 on April 7-8 at John Conrad Golf Course in Midwest City.

OCU takes aim at its fifth SAC championship in a row. The Stars won the program’s 17th SAC title in 18 years at Dornick Hills Golf & Country Club. OCU owns 21 league championships, 19 in the SAC.

Wayland Baptist (Texas) headlines a field that includes five teams among the NAIA’s top 25. Wayland Baptist has been the NAIA’s No. 1 team for four consecutive rankings, while Oklahoma City sits No. 2. Texas Wesleyan is fifth, Oklahoma Baptist tied for sixth and Northwood (Texas) at No. 23. The league’s five teams among the rankings tied with The Sun Conference for the most in the last ratings.

Oklahoma City University has taken five victories in its eight starts this season.

“This year’s team; it’s been a good run,” OCU coach Kyle Blaser said. “I knew it was going to kind of rocky to start the year, but they believe in what we preach, and that’s peaking at the right time. Boy, have they peaked.”

The Stars shot 265-282—547 to win the OBU Invitational. OCU fell one shot shy of its tournament record of 30 shots under par.

“Round one, there was no wind, and the greens were good,” Blaser said. “We’re 20 under par as a group. I told my seniors if you finish worse than 20, we’re running, because we’ve gotten to that point in past tournaments, and we’ve given up shots. We shot 23-under-par for one round. I was pretty pleased with them.”

James Marchesani of OCU won the Oklahoma Baptist Invitational with a 64-69—133 for his third victory of the season. The senior from Victoria, Rosebud, Australia, took SAC and NAIA Golfer of the Week for his performance. Marchesani leads the NAIA with a 71.14 stroke average this season.

“He’s got a good chance of being National Player of the Year,” Blaser said. “Every single tournament he plays, he brings it. This kid is something special. He has now figured out, when I’m playing bad, my worst score is going to be 72. That’s the difference between good college players and guys that can play on Saturdays and Sundays and make money.”

James’ brother Anthony Marchesani, a sophomore, owns a 71.76 stroke average to rank seventh in the NAIA. Matthew Cheung, a freshman from Brisbane, Australia, has posted a 73.39 average, while Scott Verplank, a sophomore from Edmond has recorded a 73.41 for the Stars.

OCU’s Garrison Mendoza enters the conference tournament with a 74.14 stroke average. Mendoza, a freshman from Clinton, will bring confidence that comes from nailing a hole-in-one on the par-4 17th hole at Twin Hills Golf & Country Club on Tuesday during a practice round.

“Every single year, my guys continue to improve,” Blaser said. “About this time of year, it’s something special. I couldn’t be any more proud of this group. They have done the right things and bought into the program. Our expectations are to win another national championship and win another conference championship. I like the way it’s looking. We’re motivated, and we’re hungry, and I think we’re going to end up with a great year.”

OCU is the two-time defending national champion. The Stars won their ninth NAIA title last season.