May 4, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - None of it is new to one man.
But he isn't the one playing.
Legendary Fayetteville State golf coach Raymond McDougal will take his eighth Broncos team to the NCAA Atlantic/East Super Regional this week, just 15 days after he guided the Broncos to their 26th CIAA Championship, the 16th under McDougal. But while this is old stomping ground for McDougal, the experience will be new for each of the Broncos players he brings with him. None of Fayetteville State's top five players have participated in an NCAA regional before.
"It will definitely be new," says Brandon Jobe (Fr., Fayetteville, N.C.). "I try not to think much about it."
Fayetteville State will be one of 20 teams competing in the regional, a 54-hole tournament which will be played from May 5-7 on the 6,984-yard, par-71 East Course at Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pa. The top five teams will advance to the national championship, which will be played from May 15-19 at Cardinal Club Golf Course in Louisville, Ky.
Fayetteville State last reached regional play in 2009 when the Broncos advanced to the NCAA Tournament with a runner-up finish. It was the first time in 35 years an HBCU qualified for the national tournament.
But none of the players who starred on the team that finished 17th in the nation are on the 2012 team.
Still, there is the icon of Fayetteville State Golf, small in stature but sturdy in his reputation. A 13-time CIAA Coach of the Year, McDougal is no stranger to building successful golf teams. His Broncos have won 11 of the last 15 CIAA Championships, and he has coached 48 All-CIAA performers. So while his players won't get a look at the longest course they've played this season until a practice round on Sunday, they can lean on McDougal to show them the way.
"The key for our players to be successful is to execute the shot they know they can make, rather than trying to perform a hero shot," McDougal says. "Sometimes you have to take what the course gives you. Be comfortable in the shot you need to make in a certain situation, but don't bite off more than you can chew."
It is sound advice that has already filtered down to his players.
"Every time I go out to play, I want to play my best, so that never changes," says Jobe. "I just want to get comfortable so I can hit the shots I need to."
For team MVP Jacob Barge (Jr., Fayetteville, N.C.), it's the mental part of the game of golf, which can be so grueling in its own right, that McDougal excels are mediating.
"He knows 10 times more than we do at this level," Barge says. "It's not so much about the playing advice that he can give us as it is the mental aspect. He keeps us calm, keeps us motivated, keeps us focused and is always encouraging."
Talent, though, could be enough to overcome any nervousness or inexperience the Broncos have. Fayetteville State dominated the CIAA in 2011-12, winning the Northern and Southern Division Tournaments as well as the CIAA Tournament with relative ease.
Fayetteville State also won two other tournaments this season, and placed four golfers - Jobe, Barge, Jedidiah Frazier (So., Havelock, N.C.) and Lincoln Jackson (Southern Pines, N.C.) on the All-CIAA team. Each of those four placed among the top 12 at the CIAA Championship while Mike Wallace (Sr., Fayetteville, N.C.), who finished 15th at the CIAA Championship, will also be on hand.
"It's going to be about just trying to keep our mojo going from the way we've played this season," Barge says. "We've just got to put our heads together and realize that it's just another golf tournament. Even though there might be higher stakes, it's just another tournament and another golf course for us to do our best on."
McDougal believes he has a team capable of putting three solid rounds together.
"We have players throughout the lineup that can all play well," McDougal says. "The key will be whether we can keep our composure and stay focused."