At Central Alabama Community College, it is has become an annual event for the men’s golf team to compete on the national level. To the best of my recollection, CACC golf made it to the National Championship Golf Tournament every year but two. This accomplishment speaks volumes to the consistent level of success for this college athletic program. Personally, I have been blessed to play a part in this athletic program, as a student-athlete in the 1970s and now as head coach.
In 2001, I was selected to coach the Trojan golf program after it had been shutdown. Accepting the coaching position was best decision of my life. In that first year, the college did not even have a team, so my job was to recruit players; spread the news that CACC golf was back; and begin fundraising for the financial assistance needed to field a team.
I was certainly blessed in a number of ways and had tremendous help from local community members, including Hoyt Carlisle, Billy Hardy and a few other gentlemen who paved the way in fundraising to bring this internationally acclaimed program back.
The good people of Russell Lands On Lake Martin and Willow Point Country Club stood by our side the whole way, as well. Members of the community and former Trojan golfers – such as Zess Willis who held a junior golf tournament to benefit CACC golf – gave the financial jumpstart we needed.
It was a widespread effort to bring the program back to its winning tradition; however, there was a tremendous speedbump in the road to overcome. I had to acquire the confidence of the better junior golfers that CACC golf was here to stay.
I will never forget my first year of coaching in 2002, as I had a lot to learn about coaching college golf. I made a thousand errors, and the golf team struggled throughout the year in regular season tournaments. We finished last more times than I care to recall, but those young men fought hard to improve.
In our district championship, which is the qualifying tournament for the national championship, I was over the moon proud of that golf team for finishing third out of 14 teams to earn a spot in the national championship in Scottsdale, Arizona. We showed up and played as hard as we could, but we finished in 15th place. I’m proud to say though, that Tucker Evans from Georgia finished as an All-American in that year’s championship. That group of young men helped to spur this program to what it is today.
Since my first national championship, things have changed drastically. I am now fortunate enough to receive dozens of resumés from very talented young golfers from all over the world. CACC golf fosters a good reputation as a consistently competitive team; therefore, I also receive requests from university coaches all over the country in every collegiate athletic association for my present players to transfer to the next level in college golf.
This helps to make my job somewhat easier, and it certainly helps my athletes to have choices of where they may continue their college educations. Let’s not forget the support that our golf program receives annually from benevolent individuals to keep this train on track.
As many of you know, we won the National Championship last year for the seventh time in our college’s history. That put CACC golf on top as far as national championship award winners, since the NJCAA created the three divisions early in the 1980s.
I had scheduled two ring ceremonies for the golf team. The championship ring manufacturer had postponed delivery for three months, and I finally received the rings in October. With most of last year’s golfers now attending other universities, it was no easy task to schedule getting them all together to properly award them with their championship rings.
I felt that these boys, who had worked so hard, should receive recognition with a large audience. I also wanted to share this experience with the many people, who year after year, morally and financially support the program; however, these best intentions did not come off as planned.
Caleb O’Toole and Jack Poole from last year’s team, who presently play golf for the University of Western Kentucky, finally arranged a date and asked if we could get together for dinner and a small ceremony. They both finally had a free weekend after a very busy fall season of golf.
The 2019 Championship Team joined this year’s undefeated golf team for a ring ceremonial dinner at JR’s Restaurant in Alexander City. Although it wasn’t the public presentation I had hoped for, the boys were all excited and proud to receive their rings. This was a special night for us all, and I believe it also inspired this year’s team to strive for those rings as well.
Congratulations to the 2019 NJCAA Division-1 Men’s Golf National Championship Team: Jack Poole, Caleb O’Toole, Owen Burt, Reed Love and Dylan Moncus. Also attending from the 2018-2019 team: Noah Dennis, Andrew Friend and Jackson Schultz.
~ Dave Jennings is the men’s golf coach at Central Alabama Community College.