You may be a lot like me in becoming very tired of nearly every article, website, news broadcast and work-related announcement beginning with: Due to COVID-19, we have had to make certain adjustments to … blah, blah, blah. Anyone who has a position of responsibility over people has had to write, rewrite and usually rewrite again new policies and procedures that are prefaced about the virus. One day, hopefully soon, we will be high-fiving, handshaking, whooping, singing, dancing and celebrating in large happy groups again.
At the college athletics level, coaches, athletes and fans have been sitting on pins and needles for months wondering if it would be possible to proceed with a fall season. Some sports will have the opportunity to have some level of competition, but some will not. For those that won’t, I feel especially bad for the athletes that have dreamt about competing in their chosen sports all of their lives. Coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners, college presidents and others have tried to conceive of ideas and schemes to make it happen.
Any day of the week and nearly any hour of the day, ESPN and other sports news broadcasts offer up-to-date reports on what is happening in college football, but for college golf, fans must know someone involved in the college or dig much deeper into the sporting news to find out the plans. If you like college golf, especially at the level of Central Alabama Community College, you’re in luck. I’m going to fill you in on our plans and the schedule for this fall, at least for now: By tomorrow, things could change.
Early this 2020 spring COVID-19 virus shutdown, it was reported to me that our fall season would be shortened at best. The first report for golf was that the fall season would be shortened to 60 days, beginning Sept. 1 and running through Oct. 31. That knocked out CACC’s home tournament, The Trojan Invitational, which was to be played Nov. 1-3 at Willow Point Country Club.
Golf traffic at Willow Point has increased through these pandemic days tremendously. I felt it best to call Matt Sheppard, the PGA director of golf at the club, when I learned about the altered season to cancel my tournament. Not very long after that decision of the season’s parameter date announcement, the NJCAA took a left turn and altered these dates for fall again. The new dates became Sept. 7 through Nov. 5. I got excited for a minute thinking we could save the Trojan Invitational at Willow Point; however, those dates were already filled with other plans at the club. I wasn’t shocked. After all, who doesn’t want to play Willow Point? Other plans had to be made.
Normally, our fall season begins on Aug. 1 and runs through Nov. 15. I don’t normally call my golf team in that early, but I do start team practice and qualifying the week of the first day of classes in mid-August. This year, until Sept. 7, I am limited to eight hours of mandatory practice. This is called off-season practice time. That is a small fraction of time that I normally would work with my team.
We’re making the best of it right now. With all classes being virtual or online at CACC this fall, I know that I need to get my golf team on a schedule, and in my opinion, the best time to do schoolwork is early in the morning. To assure that the boys are up and awake to do their daily online classes, I host morning wedge practice sessions on the campus track from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. I have a great group of young men again this year; they’ve shown up for these morning practice sessions at 6:15 a.m. each day.
After practice, they return to their apartments and knock out their schoolwork; and then, at 1 p.m., we’re on the practice tee. With my off-season limited practice, I can only require the boys to stay for an hour at the course. These young men are committed. Each one of them has stayed at the course and continued working on the game well into late afternoon. They’ve got what it takes, and this gives me high hopes for another competitive year.
Spring is scheduled to go as normal, but the fall schedule had to be altered. Part of this fall’s protocol is that we not travel as a team out of state or invite any teams from out of state to participate in our tournaments. Some of the colleges in Alabama are not allowing overnight stays for their athletes or employees, but thankfully, CACC appreciates that golf competitions are multi-day tournaments and overnight stays in hotels are necessary. I cut the number of tournaments for this upcoming season to four events. We had to create a couple new tournaments in areas to allow colleges to drive back and forth daily. We are trying to make lemonade out of lemons.
Every college in the United States has had to make changes in the way we compete. I feel very blessed and grateful that we will have some form of a season, even if it is shorter and the tournament participation smaller. With the limitation of staying in-state and not allowing out-of-state colleges to participate in our events, I contacted Golfstat and our NJCAA D-1 Golf Coaches Association officers and suggested that we not have polls for this one fall season. With some states having only one or two college golf programs and others hosting multiple programs, I did not feel it equitable across the nation. If you normally keep up with CACC Golf in the various polls, you may not get that report this fall but feel confident for their return this spring.
There are two big things that can still happen this fall season: All of the student athletes can work hard to have an opportunity to be competitive in these tournaments, and; we will be able to showcase our student-athletes to the NCAA and NAIA coaches to raise their transfer potential opportunities. Although we will be on a limited schedule, our event results will still be broadcast on Golfstat.com.
Friends, I appreciate your ongoing interest and support of CACC Trojan Golf. Dollars for our program will be tight once again, and I appreciate every donation that comes our way to assure our boys’ success. I understand that many who normally donate to our golf program may have to cut back a bit due to the pandemic, but if you are in a position and would like to make a tax deductible donation to CACC Golf, please mail your tax-deductible check, payable to CACC Golf, c/o: Coach Dave Jennings, CACC, 1675 Cherokee Rd., Alexander City AL 35010.
Let me assure you, at CACC, we are doing everything within our power to keep our students, athletes, instructors, administrators and staff safe, all while offering the best learning opportunities we possibly can in these trying times. I am so very proud to be associated with this group of people and our fine college. There’s no other place where I would prefer to be right now than Alexander City, Alabama. Thank you for allowing me to do what I do and for your ongoing kindness.
In next month’s article, I promise I will do my best to not talk about COVID-19. I hope to see many of you soon.
A Change of Plans
In an earlier issue of Lake Martin Living magazine, I announced that our Trojan golfers would once again be playing the Bridgestone golf ball and use their gloves this year. Well, COVID-19 threw a wrench in the works for this. Bridgestone did some restructuring and eliminated a great number of college golf programs from their sponsor list. We were one of the many colleges that lost our agreement this year. After 18 years of playing Bridgestone golf balls, I can’t be too upset. That’s a lengthy time to have a relationship. My players and I appreciate all that Bridgestone has done for us during this time period. They have been great and have a tremendous product.
I was able to acquire a new ball and glove sponsor for our team. You may never have played with this ball and may not have even known that this company makes a golf ball; but indeed, they do, and it’s a great ball. Mizuno Golf will be the official golf ball sponsor for CACC Trojan Golf this year.
Mizuno has been making golf balls for a number of years, but their distribution has been limited to Japan and other Far Eastern countries. The Mizuno ball that was found in Japan would have cost golfers in the USA around $100 per dozen; however, Mizuno did some retooling and has developed and produced a line of golf balls that perform at the highest level while fitting well into the price range of other Tour-quality balls found in the United States.
The golf balls that CACC will use this year are the Mizuno Tour and the Mizuno Tour X golf balls. The Mizuno golf ball has two standout qualities that my golfers will appreciate: One will be found when playing in the wind; the other is their butter-soft feel around the greens. My players have been testing these two balls recently and have come to really love playing them. Next time you’re ready to purchase golf balls, consider the Mizuno Tour or Tour X a try. You may find your new favorite ball.
Event: Dan York Memorial
Host: Wallace State
Golf Course: Cross Creek
Event: Region 22 Preview
Host: Wallace State
Golf Course: Musgrove
Event: Friendship Cup
Golf Course: Lagoon Park
Event: Tom Flowe Memorial
Host: Calhoun Community
Golf Course: Burning Tree
~Dave Jennings is the men's golf coach for the Central Alabama Community College Trojan Golf Team.