As NJCAA National Champions in three of the last seven years, a blueprint for success was written by the Darton College golf team years ago. Monday morning, the Cavaliers begin their drive for a fourth championship.
The District Championship begins Monday in Melbourne, Florida. Darton must finish in the top half of the field to clinch a spot in the national tournament.
Heading in to only their second district appearance in program history, the Cavaliers only know success. They won last year's district and expect to do the same this season.
"Like we told the guys this week, we're not going down to qualify. We're going down to win...just like we did last year. We weren't trying to qualify last year. It was our first district tournament in school history and we came out, we took it to them and won," Darton Head Coach Bill Jones said.
For this year's district field, just check out the top-10 national rankings. Fifth-ranked Darton will be surrounded by three other nationally-ranked heavy hitters. Sophomore Austin McNeill doesn't seem too impressed or intimidated.
"We've played against them a couple of tournaments this past year, so they know who we are and they know that we can play. We're going to be right there with them. We're going to give them a run for their money," McNeill said.
This season, the Cavaliers have been led by the veteran sophomore crew of Joe Sakulpolphaisan, Shad Tuten and McNeill. All three players are ranked in the top 60 of the NJCAA's individual scoring. Sakulpolphaisan and Tuten garner top 10 rankings.
However, it takes five great players to win a national title. Jones has placed freshmen Chase Jones and Nick Green in the final two pivotal spots.
The freshmen had their struggles in the early season tournaments, but Jones says now is their time to grow up.
"They've all played in a lot of tournaments this year as a freshman. This time of the yearâ|they're basically sophomores, so they've got to play like it and I think they're ready to," Coach Jones said.
"I'm not worried about that (the freshmen). I know that they're ready to play. We're going to have a good, strong 1,2,3,4 and 5," McNeill said.
The Cavaliers play through 36 holes Monday in Melbourne. Darton's tee time is set at 7:30 AM.