HARROGATE, Tenn. — This is a comprehensive preview of the 2015-16 Lincoln Memorial University men’s golf season, which includes an examination of the top returning players, a quick look at the incoming talent and quotes from head coach Travis Muncy.
2014-15 in review
The Railsplitters dominated the majority of their regular season schedule in 2014-15, notching eight top-5s in 11 events. That included wins at the Tennessee River Rumble and the State Farm Intercollegiate, as well as runner-up finishes in the Spring Kickoff Intercollegiate and the TNU Spring Invitational.
That success in the regular season did not translate to the postseason as the Railsplitters struggled in the rain-shortened South Atlantic Conference Championship, shooting rounds of 305 and 308 to tie for fourth place.
Despite entering the SAC Championship ranked 27th in the Golfstat head-to-head national rankings, Lincoln Memorial did not earn an at-large selection to the NCAA South/Southeast Regional.
The Railsplitters completed the season with the lowest four-player scoring average in program history (294.78) and the fourth-best win-loss percentage (.730) in the school’s single-season history.
The Railsplitters return four of their top seven in terms of scoring average from the 2014-15 campaign. Of that group, three were a part of the starting rotation.
Senior Connor Froning (Knoxville, Tennessee) is back after compiling the team’s third-best stroke average last season with a 74.17 mark and receiving All-SAC honorable mention recognition. The 2013 SAC Championship medalist, Froning collected one top-10, a .759 win-loss record and six rounds of even par or better. He enters his final season in the Blue and Gray with the fifth-lowest career scoring average in program history (74.70).
Juniors George Duncan (Dumbartonshire, Scotland) and Kurtis Campbell (Saint Lazare, Quebec, Canada) were separated by only five one-hundredths of a stroke in 2014-15, as Duncan posted a 75.04 scoring mark and Campbell accounted for a 75.09 average. Duncan notched eight rounds of even par or better and two top-5s, while Campbell posted even par or better five times with a pair of top-5s last season.
“Connor, Curtis and George should be the base of our starting five, but we’ve got a group of guys that are going to push for playing time,” Muncy said. “We’ve got some veteran guys that have been in the shadows for the past couple of years that are ready to emerge.”
Senior Will Wright (Knoxville) bounced in and out of the starting rotation last season, accumulating a 75.46 stroke average in 13 rounds. The Walters State Community College transfer turned in a 15th place finish in the Tusculum Fall Classic.
Garrett Metz (Knoxville) – a member of the Railsplitters’ 2013 SAC Championship squad and one of the program’s nine seniors – should also have an opportunity to play his way into the starting rotation. Metz carries a lifetime 76.2 scoring average with two top-10s into his senior season.
The Railsplitters were hit hard by graduation, losing 11 players including the last two South Atlantic Conference Players of the Year in Braden Galyon and Rand Wasson.
Galyon and Wasson were both magnificent last season. Galyon led the Railsplitters with a 72.96 stroke average, seven top-10s and 11 rounds of even par or better, earning SAC Player of the Year recognition and a bid to the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Regional.
He wasn’t nearly as lauded as Gaylon, but Wasson was nearly as good as him, recording a 73.85 stroke average, a team-best .840 winning percentage and two top-5s. The 2013-14 SAC Player of the Year was voted to the All-SAC second team.
Galyon completed his career ranked fourth in program history with a 74.49 scoring average, while Wasson is seventh with a 74.80 mark.
Lincoln Memorial also graduated another solid contributor in Tre Mullins, who compiled a 74.30 stroke average in the fall portion of the 2014-15 campaign.
“With Rand and Braden, you’re talking two big players. Those are two quality scores you could consistently count on that have to replaced,” Muncy said. “They’ve been a part of the core group for the last four years and our program wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the things we have without them. Those guys were real anchors and pushed the rest of the guys to compete at a higher level. Most importantly, they were real leaders for our team, so we’re looking for guys to step in and fill those two leadership roles.”
The Railsplitters brought in four new players for the 2015-16 campaign, welcoming freshmen Tyler Bohanan (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee), Sam Broadhurst (Nuneaton, England) and Ethan Harlond (Amaranth, Ontario, Canada) as well as senior transfer Cody Johnson (Knoxville).
All four guys are expected to have an impact on the program, but the most immediate production should come from Broadhurst and Johnson.
“Cody and Sam should be able to make the quickest impact,” Muncy said. “Cody is a seasoned player who was on the National Championship team at Walters State and transferred here from Milligan for his senior year. He’s a very solid, very steady player. Sam is a very talented freshman that has shown us a lot in qualifying, but we will have to see how he handles the rigors of collegiate golf.”
Johnson led Milligan, who finished 31st in the final NAIA Coaches Poll last season, in three tournaments.
Preseason Division II poll
Lincoln Memorial is listed in the receiving votes section of the Bushnell Golfweek Preseason Division II Coaches Poll with 10 points. The Railsplitters were one of three South Atlantic Conference programs to make an appearance in the poll, as Wingate is no. 25 and Queens is also in the receiving votes section with four points.
The qualifying process
Last year’s numbers and performances are thrown out when deciding the starting rotation on a tournament-by-tournament basis, as lineups are instead cast based on the results of a strenuous tournament qualifying process. Muncy and his staff have found that the qualifying process helps ward off staleness and maintain his team’s competitive edge.
“We’ve created a competitive environment at Lincoln Memorial. You can’t become complacent because there are guys behind you that are ready for the opportunity to compete and have the ability to take your spot.”
Muncy retains the same rotation from the previous tournament only if that group wins the event. Otherwise, the top five spots are up for grabs. It’s a system that rewards consistent, quality results, while providing the opportunity for any player on the roster to earn his spot.
“The guys enjoy the qualifying process because it’s almost like a tournament every time you qualify. You have to go out and post numbers, play your best and play smart. You can’t have a bad day. It’s created an environment where you have to stay sharp and focused.”
Qualifying is off and running for the Railsplitters’ season-opening event, the Kiawah Island Invitational. Lincoln Memorial tees off the 2015-16 campaign at Cougar Point Golf Course on Sept. 14.