HCC Men's Golf
Saints qualify for national championships for sixth of past eight years
Jimmy Ward | Friday, May 17, 2019
Coming off a three-win season and continuing their newfound success under head coach T.J. Mannen and assistant coach Brian Matthews, the Saints have secured another national championship title run. Holy Cross sealed its spot at the NAIA National Championships in late May after winning the CCAC Tournament at Cog Hill Golf Club in Lemont, Illinois, with a team total score of 581.
The team finished the first round of the tournament sitting atop the leaderboard with a score of 292 and improved in the second half with a score of 289, finishing with a 15-stroke advantage over runner-up Olivet Nazarene. Senior Alex Meagher and junior Blake Vise led the way for the Saints, finishing first and second overall, respectively.
Meagher shot a 69 in the first round and a 71 in the second, while Vise shot for 71 on both days of the tournament. Freshmen Camden Dal Corobbo, Ben Szklarek and Carter Silva polished off the field. Dal Corobbo shot 71 on the first day and a 73 on the second. Szklarek finished with a score of 76 on the first day of competition but improved the second day with a score of 74. Silva shot a 77 on the first day and an 83 on the second. With this dominating conference performance, the Saints secured a place in the NAIA National Championship, which will take place Tuesday to Friday.
In addition to their championship-qualifying victory at the conference level, the Saints also came home with a pair of wins on the road this season. The team won its first match of the year at the Crosstown Clash in Plymouth, Indiana, where, again, Vise led the way, shooting a 68 in both rounds and winning the tournament. Ben Szklarek made his colligate debut and finished right behind Vise in second place, shooting a 76 in the first round and finishing with a 70 on the second.
The Saints also found success later in the season at the CCAC Cup, where they placed first for the second consecutive year. Paving the way for Holy Cross at the CCAC Cup were Vise and Meagher, shooting 70 and 76 in the first round and 69 and 68 in the second, respectively.
After spending his first two years as an assistant coach, Mannen was named CCAC Men’s and Women’s Golf Coach of the Year in 2018. On top of this, Mannen has coached eight men and three women who have gone on to receive First-Team All-CCAC recognition. Mannen commented on how his team is looking to prepare for the championship tournament in Arizona.
“We’ve tried to research a little bit,” he said. “It’s out in Mesa, but two of our girl golfers on the team are from there, so they kind of gave us a little bit of insight and whatnot. We’ll get out there the day before, play a practice round and kind of get prepared for it, but I’ve lived in Arizona before, and I’ve told them what the golf courses are like and what to look out for. But we’re still just practicing here at Warren or Blackthorn and keeping everything sharp by playing pretty much every day.”
The four-round NAIA National Championship will conclude May 24, with the first two days serving as qualifying rounds.
“It is supposed to be a four-round tournament and there is a two day cut, so we’ll play the first two days, which is going to be Tuesday and Wednesday, and then if we are in the low 17 teams that tie, then we continue on to the next two days,” Mannen said.
With four graduating seniors, the Saints have solidified their golf recruiting, thanks in no small part to their successful beginning of an era.
“We have seven new players coming in the fall, which is a huge recruiting class,” Mannen said. “This coming year, we’ve got one Gateway student with six incoming freshmen, one being Carter [Silva] — who we actually played [this season] — is actually still considered a freshman because he came in after graduating early from high school. We are going to have at least 10 to 11 players, so we are going to have a very strong squad going into fall.”
Leading their team to championship tournaments is something Mannen and Matthews have almost become accustomed to. Last year, the coaching staff led the team to a 17th-place finish at the NAIA Nationals at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.
“We’ve gone to the national championship five out of the last seven years. This will make sixth out of eight, and we’ve only been around for about nine years,” Mannen said. “This is our third time as a team, and the other three times have been with individuals, but to go as an individual you have to win medalist in conference championship. We’ve had to recruit and develop some very strong players the entire duration of our golf program. Every year, I try to do the same thing — recruit to build a solid team and keep going to nationals, so that’s always been my goal. … We’re ranked number one in our conference right now for the guys, and I think next year in the preseason we’ll still be ranked number one. So yeah, we’ll see how it goes. We’re just going to continue that same tradition — look down the road towards the stretch and just keep playing.”
With postseason competition just around the corner, the Saints hope to maintain their consistency down the stretch.