By Camille Vandendriessche, Assistant Copy Editor
After failing to qualify for the NCAA Division II National Championship by one spot last spring, the golf team has a clear goal this year: earning its ticket for the national tournament.
Getting to nationals is the goal for the whole year, said Mike Campbell, who enters his fifth year as head coach.
“It’s a whole process,” Campbell said. “We will take it week by week and try to improve each week.”
In 2007, Campbell led the Wildcats to the national championship in Grand Rapids, Mich., where the team tied for eighth place. As a player, Campbell also participated in two national tournaments for ACU; his team finished eighth in 1990 and third in 1991.
Last year, the Wildcats finished second at the South Central Region Tournament in May after recording the lowest score of all teams on the final day. Campbell said the team played really well that day but was penalized by a slow start as it was only ranked fourth before the final day. Only the winning team advanced to nationals.
However, the Wildcats overcame that disappointment by showing great things in the fall, Campbell said.
“I am very pleased with how we played in the fall,” Campbell said. “We won a tournament at Northeastern State and finished third at [the Charles Coody West Texas Intercollegiate in Abilene]; we are currently 15th in the national rankings.”
Despite the loss of Curtis Harris and Erik Manning to graduation, the team returns some of last year’s most productive players, including three seniors: Hilton Funk, from Lago Vista; Pat Hanauer, from Aachen, Germany; and Michael Andrucheck, from Flower Mound.
Hanauer, the team’s captain, said qualifying the team to the national tournament is the first goal on his list.
“I really want to make it to nationals,” Hanauer said. “This is my last year, so there’s a little more pressure, and I want to do great.”
After his final season as a Wildcat, Hanauer plans to stay in the United States and continue to play golf at a professional level.
Hanauer, who ranked No. 37 in the nation in the fall, according to golfstat.com, is one of the key players in the team, along with Cyril Bouniol, Campbell said.
“Cyril and Pat had a tremendous fall,” Campbell said. “They both had a cumulative score under the par.”
Bouniol, sophomore from Laloubere, France, ranked No. 9 in the nation after the fall. He said his main goal is to help the team make it to nationals; he also wants to win a tournament individually after finishing second, third and fourth on the circuit last year.
“We have a good team to make it to nationals,” Bouniol said. “The results were encouraging in the fall; we proved that we can win, and when we don’t, we usually place well.”
Bouniol said last year the team often scored average on the first day of tournaments before finishing very well on the second day.
“We need to start out stronger,” he said.
The team also will rely on three sophomore players: Jose Gutierrez, from Veracruz, Mexico; Charles Levitte, from Couchey, France, and Jeff War, from Abilene. Two freshmen, Morgan Johnson and Zach Sadau, respectively from Rowlet and Southlake, will reinforce the team.
Out of the nine players on the team, only five make the traveling team for each trip; before every tournament, all the players participate in qualifications to earn their spot in the team. To be competitive, Campbell said the players practice five days a week, and usually even more, but on their own.
“The players are pretty self-motivated; they have the desire to succeed,” Campbell said. “It’s pretty competitive; every one wants to be on the [traveling] team.”
Saturday, the Wildcats will head to Laredo for their first tournament of 2009, which will take place Monday and Tuesday. Campbell said the field will not be very strong, but the warm weather makes it a great place to compete.