By Jeff Raymond
Grace College Sports Information
WINONA LAKE – Experience is defined as: practical knowledge, skill or practice derived from direct participation in events or in a particular activity.
For the 2021-22 Grace men’s golf team, experience will be the key to moving up the ranks in tournament play and producing even more success against the quality competition in the Crossroads League. Seven golfers return for the Lancers, giving coach Denny Hepler one of his most seasoned squads.
“We play in a very tough league,” said Hepler. “We are counting on our experience to help us break into the top tier of teams in league play.”
The lone senior on the team is Noah Wright, who has been one of the top players at Grace for his entire career. Wright was a NCCAA All-American in 2019 and has a 77.5 scoring average as a Lancer. He is also a top student, earning NCCAA Scholar-Athlete honors.
“Noah brings great leadership quality to our team,” commented Hepler.
A group of four juniors will add upperclassmen leadership and several years of combined college experience. Payton Kelly and Blake Lawson have been key players for the past two years. Kelly shot a career-best 70 to open last season and finished with an 80.4 scoring average. Lawson shot the lowest score for the Lancers in last season’s Crossroads Tournament and posted an 82.5 scoring average for the year.
Luke Delp transferred to Grace a year ago and played the second half of the season. He showed flashes of his potential with a team-low 75 round at Purdue’s Ackermam-Allen course and ended with an 84.5 scoring average. Chase Byron participated in four tournaments a year ago, with a low round of 80 and an average of 87.4.
Sophomores Parker Wilburn and Tristen Dubbs will also battle for top five spots. Wilburn played in every match last season, finishing with an 83.3 scoring average, while Dubbs was close behind, posting an average score of 84.5.
The only newcomer for the Lancers is Eric Haegeland, who arrives from Westminster Christian High School in St. Charles, Ill.
“Our biggest improvements need to come in the short game, our chipping and putting,” said coach Hepler. “I believe our maturity will help us be more consistent in those areas.”
The 2021-22 season opens for the men’s team at the IU Kokomo Invitational on Sept. 13-14. The Lancers play in five tournaments during the fall with the aim of getting an invitation to the NCCAA Championships in Palm Coast, Fla., Oct. 18-20.
The Crossroads League Championships will take place during the 2022 spring season.