After a tough 2014-15 campaign, GW golf will head to Harmony Golf Preserve in Harmony, Fla. on Friday to compete in the Atlantic 10 Championship.
The three-day event, which runs from April 24 to 26, will have 12 teams fighting for the title of conference champion and an automatic bid to the 2015 NCAA Regional competition.
The Colonials’ best finish all season came earlier this fall at the Patriot Intercollegiate tournament, where the team went just 24-over-par with a combined score of 876 – good for an impressive fifth-place finish in the 17-team field.
Despite some outstanding individual performances, the Colonials then struggled as a team in almost all of their subsequent outings. GW finished in the bottom half of the field in every tournament, unable to shoot better than 40-over-par as a team for the remainder of the season.
But as second-year head coach Chuck Scheinost said, the squad’s schedule has become increasingly tougher over the course of his four semesters at GW. At the Seminole Intercollegiate tournament in mid-March, for example, the Colonials finished last in a 17-team field but competed against four top-10 teams in the country.
“I think playing the top courses and against top competition will ultimately create and attract the best players, so I feel it’s all a part of the process to get the program to where it’s consistently competing among the best in the A-10 and region,” Scheinost said.
Lone senior Jack Persons has paced the Colonials most of the season, finishing first among his teammates in six of 11 tournaments and averaging a team-best score of 74.35.
Persons shared Atlantic 10 player of the Week honors with VCU junior Adam Ball in late March after finishing 1-under-par at the Bash at the Beach in March with a score of 212, which tied the fourth-lowest 54-hole score in program history.
“Jack has been a great leader for us this year, especially with his play on the golf course and in pushing the guys to be better,” Scheinost said. “He’s been great at organizing our guys, always making sure they get to practice extra if they want by taking the team to the course early or by staying late.”
Ball and his Rams are the favorite to take the title for the second straight year. Golfweek.com has ranked VCU the 77th-best team in the nation, while GW sits at No. 232.
Still, the Colonials have some new weapons at their disposal this year. Freshmen Vince Palazzolo and Zack Bailey, part of Scheinost’s first-ever recruiting class, follow Persons closely on the stat sheet, averaging scores of 75.56 and 76.80, respectively.
“All three of our freshmen have flashed their talent in individual rounds this season,” Scheinost said. The third freshman, Jack Porcelli, is averaging a score of 78.90. “The goal is to get all of our players, not just our freshmen, to be more consistent from round to round, practice to practice and tournament to tournament.”
VCU and Richmond will likely be GW’s toughest competition again. Richmond fell to the Rams by just a one-shot in last year’s championship, combining for a score of 879 to VCU’s 878.
Richmond (178), conference-newcomer Davidson (189), Rhode Island (194) and George Mason (222) lead GW in the rankings, but as the Colonials realized last season, anything can happen in championship play. GW, posting similar regular season results last year, was picked to finish seventh among its league rivals. But the team closed out the final day of championship play with a 13-over-par 297 team score to surge to a third-place overall finish.
While an A-10 title seems unlikely this season for Scheinost, GW still has the potential to upset some talented teams and remain in the conversation as one of the stronger programs in the league.
“I think our confidence level is in a pretty good spot,” Scheinost said. “We absolutely have the talent to win a championship. We’re going to have to put ourselves in good positions and play our best golf to have a chance to do that.”