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Taylor golf teams sweep Players Club invite

MEDALIST: Taylor University junior Nicole Jung fired a two-day total of 2-under par 142 for medalist honors at the Players Club Invitational on the Trojans' home course.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

YORKTOWN — Cameron Andry has built a juggernaut over his nine seasons as Taylor University golf coach, and the new season is again full of promise.

The Trojans men and women swept their Players Club Invitational on Saturday afternoon at their home Yorktown course, and NAIA All-Americans Nicole Jung and Maddie Thomas finished 1-2 in the women's tournament.

Jung clinched individual medalist honors Saturday with a 2-under par 70 and finished the 36-hole tournament at 142. Thomas followed up her record-setting performance earlier in the week at the Forester Fall Classic to finish second at 147 (73-74).

Eleventh-ranked Taylor finished at 603 (298-305) and was 12 shots clear of the other seven teams. The Trojans shot their third straight sub-300 round Friday coming off the Forester meet where they set the team scoring record of 296-297—593.

"We all just play with a lot of confidence," Thomas said. "We know we're going to have bad stretches and have bogeys, but we know we can always make some birdies.

"I started out today and bogeyed 17, parred 18 and came back around and bogeyed one, so I was two-over after three," she continued. "Then, I finished the rest of the way even, so I knew I could bounce back and that mentality we all have that on this team — when it goes wrong we all know we can get it back."

While the women are an experienced group, the men are reloading after losing four of their top five golfers from last year's fifth-place NAIA national finals team. Alec Dutkowski, who was in a playoff for NAIA top individual honors, was among the departees and is embarking on a professional career.

Yet, the No. 14-ranked Trojans shot an impressive 287-294—581 to lead the 12-team field by six shots over Holy Cross (Indiana). Freshmen Erik Fahlen and Noah Ross from Eastbrook helped lead the team to the title in their first collegiate meets.

"Coming into a new program, I definitely wanted to come out with a strong start and show the guys that I'm competitive and want to bring some good scores to help the team," said Fahlen, who finished third overall at 69-73—142. "I ended up having a good tournament and hit the ball well."

Ross was third on the team at 72-75—147 and was coming off a spring high school season for the Panthers where he was medalist in the Central Indiana Conference, Grant Four and sectional meets. Of all the Taylor golfers, he had the shortest commute — three blocks — to the campus, where his father Gary Ross is the Taylor men's soccer coach.

"At Eastbrook there never was much competition as for who were the top couple golfers," Ross said. "But here every one on the team has the capability to go low. I really like to be able to compete with your own teammates and make each other better."

Andry said he had more questions about the men entering the season considering their inexperience. But Nate Morris, a senior and one of the most experienced returnees, added a 70 on Saturday and finished second on the team with a 146 total, and sophomore Javan Johnson was consistent both days with a 75-76—151.

"We graduated two four-year guys and one may be the best whose ever played in the Crossroads League, Alec Dutkowski, and we knew we weren't going to replace that guy," Andry said. "... I knew we'd have to lean on some guys that we never had to before, so I was really proud of those freshmen.

"Erik is very highly touted and won a state championship (in Michigan) as an individual, and Noah is a local guy who has gotten better and better and better," Andry added. "(Friday) his very first shot as a collegian he hits it out of bounds and makes a double bogey, and he fights all the way back to shoot even par. Every time he's out there he's grinding and getting the most out of his rounds."

Jung, a native of Bolivia, has represented her country in international tournaments since age 13 and arrived at Taylor after seeing a pamphlet about the school and sending an email. Over the two days, Jung recorded nine birdies and overcame a triple bogey.

"Definitely, I'm happy with the outcome of today," Jung said. "It could have been a lower score, but I'm satisfied with what I shot today. My golf game is good right now.

"Like Maddie said, our team does a good job bouncing back even if we have a bad hole because we know we can get birdies out there, and that was the mentality out there," she added.

Andry has methodically built the Trojans golf programs beginning with identifying talented Indiana players, but the school also can cast a wide net, and some like Fahlen and Ross had fathers, brothers or uncles play before them.

"It's been a process and each year our goals are simple," Andry said. "On the course we want to put ourselves in a position where we have a team strong enough to win the Crossroads League and make it to the national championship.

"Once we get to the national championships we want to play as well as we can and see what shakes out," he continued. "The men have finished top 10 last two years, which is great, and the ladies were fifth two years ago and tied for 12th last year. It's been really good to see it grow. We've had good players, that's the bottom line."