The spring season for the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly men's club golf team is underway, and assistant coach Tom Roe believes the players are making great progress on the links.
"We've played in three tournaments this spring and in each tournament they are showing signs of improvement," he said. "We have another big tournament to finish out the season, then we have regionals. The winner at regionals will go to nationals in Phoenix. I really think the boys have it in them (to win regionals). They can do it."
The Grizzlies' first full tournament of the spring season was at the Evangel University Spring Invitational March 26-27 at Rivercut Golf Course in Springfield.
The Grizzlies placed 10th out of 12 teams, finishing with a total score of 672.
First place went to Millikin University from Decatur, Ill., which posted a score of 604.
Top finisher for the Grizzlies was freshman J.W. Blevins of Salem, Ark., who shot a two-day total of 157 to tie for 16th place out of 68 players.
He was followed by freshman Dustin Blackburn, Houston, 169; sophomore Chris Evins, Willow Springs, 170; freshman Josh Hicks, Willow Springs, 176; and freshman Blake Allen, Thayer, 193.
"It was very cold, and winds were blowing 30 to 40 miles per hour at this event. We even had a delay in the starting tee off time due to the wind chill. Still, we beat a couple of teams. Overall, I was pleased with their performance," Roe said.
The second tournament was the Lyon College Invitational March 29-30 at The Course at Eagle Mountain in Batesville.
The Grizzlies placed second out of four teams with a two-day total of 656. "The course was extremely wet and it was extremely windy. But we played better and showed signs of improvement," Roe said.
Top Grizzly finishers were Blevins and Evins, who both shot two-day totals of 158. Hicks followed with a 168, Blackburn 170 and Allen 181.
The Grizzlies' most recent tournament was April 12-13 at the Red Apple Country Club in Heber Springs, Ark., where they competed in the Natural State Golf Classic hosted by Harding University.
Roe said he was very proud of the team's results in this event, noting the Grizzlies were the only two-year college competing in the 12-team tournament.
"Our team was playing against 11 teams from four-year schools that offered golf scholarships," he said. "While those teams played mainly juniors and seniors, we were playing with four freshmen and one sophomore, and we finished ninth."
On the first day, the Grizzlies shot a 320 on the par 71 course; the second day, they trimmed 18 strokes off their first-day result to finish with a 302.
"Head Coach Phil Wade and I tell our golfers we want them to shoot a 310 average as a team at a tournament, and they had a 311 average for this event, so they're very close to where we want them to perform. I was very pleased with the way they played. With the field they played against, they did very well," Roe said.
Evins led the Grizzly charge in this tournament, shooting a two-day total 149 to tie for 14th place. Blevins followed with a 151, Allen 161, Hicks 164 and Blackburn 169.
Allen showed the most improvement at the tournament, Roe said. After shooting an 88 on the first day, he came back to shoot a 73 on the second.
"Blake played smarter golf on the second day. This was an old-fashioned course and he played with a lot of irons off the tee Tuesday," Roe said.
Roe also praised Evins and Blevins for playing solid rounds of golf at the event.
The Grizzlies will travel to Farmington April 25-26 for the Mineral Area College (MAC) Invitational at Crowne Point Golf Club, then they will face the Cardinals head to head in the Region 16 tournament May 2 at Ozark Ridge Golf Course in Poplar Bluff.
"As they are finishing up the season, I think their nerves have calmed down and they're continuing to show improvement. That is what we want to see right now," Roe said.