BY MIKEY BARNES
On Oct. 24, 2014, the University of Mary Washington announced it would be welcoming a new program to the UMW athletics team. That program addition was the men’s golf team, coached by former men’s basketball coach, Rod Wood. Wood had led the UMW men’s basketball program to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament in his final season as the head of the program. He served as the head golf coach at Robert E. Lee High School where he led them to two conference championships.
The golf program started its inaugural season in the fall of 2016, bringing in an entire class of freshman and one transfer junior. Wood and the UMW athletic department welcomed in one of the top recruiting classes in Division III this season, led by freshman captain Austin Matz.
Throughout the season, the program has had a number of top finishes in many tournaments. In September the team finished in third place in the CAC tournament preview at Cape Charles, Virginia, finishing just one shot behind second place Virginia Wesleyan. In the middle of October the team finished in fifth of 14 teams at the VSGA Intercollegiate tournament in Williamsburg, Virginia.
In the spring season, the Eagles had a lot of strong performances. The Eagles finished in first of six at the Burning Ridge Golf Club at the Myrtle Beach Kickoff. At the Marine Credit Union Collegiate Championship, the Eagles men’s golf team finished in sixth of 31 teams at the end of March and beginning of April.
On April 14, the Eagles participated in the tournament they had prepared for all season; the CAC Tournament. After the first day of the tournament, the Eagles were in second place, with freshman Phillip Manceri tied for first overall. On the second day of the tournament, the Eagles remained in second place, as freshman Ethan Kelly shot two over, with a round of 74. Manceri got second for the Eagles shot a six over, a round of 78. In the final day, Kelly shot three over, a 75, as Manceri shot a nine over, for an 81.
The Eagles finished in second overall, behind Christopher Newport University. Kelly finished in fifth place, with a three-day score of 228, for a total of 12 over. Manceri finished right behind Kelly in sixth, three strokes back. Fellow freshman Jason Guintu finished in fourteenth place with a score of 243.
Kelly’s performance and season was good enough to earn him the Capital Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and a spot on the first team all-CAC. Manceri’s performance also earned him a spot on the all-CAC first team.
The Eagles’ strong performance in the tournament and on the season will set them up for next year and the years to come, as they are currently a roster of all nine freshman. According to a number of the current players, next year’s team is to feature another strong group of freshman.