Cape Fear Men's Golf competed in the NJCAA Men's National Tournament earlier this month, finishing in 14th place to cap off a tremendous 2018 season.
Brantley Moore finished the tournament in 44th place, leading the way for the Sea Devils. He opened the tournament with a Round 1 score of -2 under par.
"That was absolutely great," said head coach Rick Stewart of Moore's first round. "For him to [score -2] on the first day of the national tournament was pretty special."
After a first round score of 70, Moore shot 76, 78, and 76 in the final three rounds.
Justin Morgan also finished in the top 50, finishing tied for 49th. After shooting 76 in the first three rounds, Morgan finished off the tournament with a final round score of 73. He was even par through nine holes and -1 under through 14, but a double bogey on the 15th hole cost him an under par final round.
The Sea Devils were tied for 12th after Round 1. With the goal of finishing in the Top 10, coach Stewart felt good heading into Round 2 and even considered striving for a higher finish.
"The first day ignited a flame under me. Maybe we could win it, maybe we couldn't, but we will at least show well," Stewart thought.
However, a second round team score 307 (their highest of the four rounds) pushed them back to 14th, which made cracking the Top 10 difficult heading into the final two rounds.
Coach Stewart believes two things played a factor. First, the competition was high, and for many of the Sea Devils, the highest they had ever played against. Stewart believes playing against schools such as Indian Hills and Iowa Western (the top two finishers) was an eye opening experience.
"It showed them what it's going to take to compete at the highest level nationally," said Stewart.
Playing conditions also affected things. The tournament's location, Lubbock, Texas, is known for its high winds. Coach Stewart coined them the "infamous West Texas winds" and described how they started strong in the morning and increased throughout the day.
"Tree limbs were blowing before the sun came out. By 10 a.m., there were [wind gusts] of 15-20mph. After lunch, 20-25mph. West Texas winds, they're there."
Add in the stormy conditions on the second day, and the Sea Devils were faced with tough odds. Because of the dry land, large puddles formed in the ground. While Cape Fear was able to finish their second round, other teams weren't so lucky due to lightning and heavy rains. Still, coach Stewart doesn't make excuses for the rain and wind, stating that every team had to play in it.
More than anything, the team's Par 3 play cost them the most. Cape Fear finished with the second most birdies and eagles, but scored second lowest on Par 3's. These holes, viewed as ones where players can typically birdie or par, proved difficult. With yardage of 240-245, and holes placed in the far corners of the greens, the Sea Devils were unable to capitalize on them.
While the team wasn't able to finish in the Top 10, Coach Stewart believes it was a great experience that should pay dividends next season. They learned how to play a tough course in bad conditions, and they learned just how good the top programs in the country are.
The national tournament caps off an overall great season for the Sea Devils. Coach Stewart called this season's team, "a great, great team" that performed well on the course and off, with an overall team GPA of 3.0. With many of the players returning next season, Coach Stewart is looking forward to building off what they accomplished in 2017-18.
Courtesy Nick Denning