Tornadoes golf team finishes the season off strong
by ERICH HILKERT
The Talladega College golf team finished their season strong by winning the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship held in Port St. Lucie, Fla. and placing third overall in the NAIA unaffiliated qualifier held in Athens, Ala.

Unfortunately, the team fell short of their goal to win the qualifier and move on to the NAIA National Championship held in Salem, Oregon, but the Tornadoes were right in the thick of the hunt for most of the qualifier.

“The trip to Athens was wonderful,” head coach Kevin Jennings said. “My team is comprised of all freshmen. As far as I’m concerned, they did a very good job. We played 36 holes the first day and we were tied with Blue Mountain [College] for the low score out of all teams. Going into the last day, we were in second place and in position to do what we wanted to do, which is close the tournament. The winner of the tournament goes to Nationals.”

Following play on the first day involving teams both from the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) and the Trans South Athletic Conference, TC team members Jonathan Ortiz, Drake Mosley, Daniel Pachon-Vargas, Maram Macham, and Craig Whatley were tied for the lead with Blue Mountain College with a score of 304. Blue Mountain College finished the qualifier as the winner and represented the two conferences in Salem, Ore.

Talladega College golf team member Jonathan Ortiz earned a spot on the all-conference team for his play in the qualifier.

“He finished third overall in the tournament, thereby securing a spot on the All-TranSouth/Gulf Coast Athletic Conference golf team,” Jennings said. “He played well. He had a couple rough spots, but was able to finish up very well and come in with some solid scores. He feels as though he could have played better, but what golfer doesn’t?”

The team followed their performance at the qualifier with a win in the NAIA division at the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship.

“Going into the tournament, I felt that with us having all freshmen they were trending towards playing much better,” Jennings said. “I began a campaign halfway through the semester of competing—and by that, competing with the golf course and not worrying about the competition. If you compete with the golf course and do well, generally you’re going to beat most of your competition. They’re getting better at understanding that. Each of them showed visions of that or the future of that in the competition in Port St. Lucie, Fla. It gives us a very, very bright spot to look forward to next year being that we will be adding more players and strengthening the team and continuing to move towards putting Talladega golf on the map.”

Jennings is continuing to strengthen his team through recruiting. While the current crop of players was a well-regarded class of recruits, Jennings said he has more talent joining Talladega College for next season.

“I’m still working on recruiting and securing the group that I will have for next year,” Jennings said. “The group I have for next year is just as promising as the group I have this year. We’re looking to continue to develop the program and bring good kids in who will work hard and utilize our knowledge towards developing a good program.”

The TC golf team done well on the course, but has also led the way in the classroom. Their 3.88 overall GPA was the top team GPA at Talladega College.

“I do emphasize and stress academics because if there are no academics, there is no golf,” Jennings said. “You cannot tote that golf bag that says ‘Talladega College’ unless you are number one handling your books. Why not handle them in an exemplary state if you’re capable of it? I was blessed to have recruited very intelligent kids, and I will continue to pursue very intelligent kids who are hard workers because that’s generally going to be a good recipe for good people in a good program.”

Jennings is hopeful the strong results from the season will elevate interest in the team from the Talladega community.

“We are open to any and all philanthropic and/or community support,” Jennings said. “Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns or we can be of assistance to anyone out in the community. We look forward to lots of community support in the future.”

© 2013