The ACU golf team began practice Monday with a new addition to its roster and qualifying for its first tournament only a week away.
It was the first time since 2014 the Wildcats had practiced as a team at Diamondback Golf Club. Even with their first tournament still two weeks away, head coach Tom Shaw is ready to see his team compete.
“The guys should show up ready to go,” he said. “We will have a full week of practice, and then qualifying starts. I’m looking forward to seeing guys show up ready to play.”
Starting Feb. 2, the Wildcats will begin a two-week qualifying process to determine which five players will travel to the UTPA Classic in Edinburg.
“Qualifying is extremely competitive,” said Brandon Wilkins, junior from Dallas. “It’s never easy trying to beat out your own teammates, but it all starts with this first week of practice.”
It was not only the first practice of the semester for one Wildcat, but also his first practice ever with ACU. Ryan Beatty, a redshirt sophomore from Birmingham, Alabama, transferred to ACU over winter break.
“It is clear he is very talented.” Shaw said. “He will be a big boost to our program even now, especially in practice as a sparring partner.”
For a while it looked like Beatty’s golf career might be over. After two successful years at McLennan Junior College, he chose to step away from the game and focus on his studies at Sam Houston State University.
However, two of his former teammates at McLennan who had already made the transition to ACU golf, Dillon Vaughn and Wilkins, helped make this place the perfect fit for him.
“I think already having an established relationship with Dillon and I was definitely a huge motivator for him coming here,” Wilkins said. “He knew he could come here and immediately feel a part of the team as well as play the sport he loves.”
Beatty will redshirt this spring but will begin the fall semester with two full seasons of eligibility.
While Beatty and his new teammates are just beginning practice, their preparation for the spring season started earlier this month in the weight room. The team has been on a new strength program this offseason, with one of the primary focuses being yoga.
“Everything in the weight room is an intentional effort to prepare for competitive play,” Shaw said. “We’ll see how it translates on the course.”