CCM places in top two seeds in both opening tournaments
By Connor Iapoce
The County College of Morris Titans golf team worked on their game in the winter offseason hoping to come out swinging strong when the 2017-2018 season started Monday, March 19.
Now, under head coach Jim Chegwidden in his fourth season at CCM, they have opened up their season placing second of six in their first match on March 19 and first of four in their second match Monday, March 26. A team consisting of three freshman and two sophomores continue to drive to reach the NJCAA National Golf Championship in Chautauqua, New York.
The Titans’ first match was a Garden State Athletic Conference matchup against Rowan College at Burlington County at Deerwoods Country Club. The Titans combined for a total stroke score of 317, the lowest opening round score for the team since the 2007 season. Freshman Nick Axelson shot 75, the team’s lowest score, to lead CCM to second place in the match, combining with the other top three scores from freshman Jerome Beyer who shot 78, sophomore Tommy Apostolico who shot 80, and returning sophomore Kyle Kepler who shot 84.
Kepler said he had desire to get back into the competition of the golf season and play against other skilled players and spent the offseason working on his game, putting emphasis on his hopes of reaching the national tournament.
“I am looking forward this season to competing at a competitive level against some really skilled players and reaching our team goal of getting back to the national tournament,” Kepler said. “This offseason and spring, I’ve been dedicating a lot of time at the driving range working on my swing and short game. I’ve been getting some good practice rounds in on the course to find a rhythm in my game which I felt was a missing component last season.”
The Titan’s second match saw the team finish first against Delaware Technical Community College at Baywood Greens. The team shot 346 under hazardous conditions with low temperatures and 30 mph gusts of winds. Axelson led the team once more shooting with Apostolico shooting 86, Christensen shooting 89, and Kepler shooting 91.
“Being my first year on the team, I’m looking forward to nearly every aspect of our season,” Axelson said. “Each event is an opportunity for me to perform for our school.”
Head coach Chegwidden said he has a lot of faith in a team made up of mostly new recruits, where the composition of the team seems to change every season.
“It’s always difficult to recruit at the two-year level,” Chegwidden said. “It’s almost like every season you have to bring a new team. Attitudes are great, however. I really think that these guys really believe we could win it all this year. We have the ability from golfers one through five because anyone of those guys could shoot in the 70s. It makes it nice since I don’t have to worry about the lineup. They take care of themselves.”
The golfers compete for the top two spots on the team, and the player with the top score during a match will tee off first the next match for CCM.
“The golf team this year is a special group of guys that includes two experienced returning players and three really good incoming players that will have a key role in the team this year,” Kepler said. “It’s really enjoyable being part of a team where we all want to win and compete at a high level.”
Chegwidden said the Titans have grown closer through weekly golf specific workouts in the fitness center during the off center, based on exercises he saw on The Golf Channel.
“I really believe that when you make your body stronger, your mind gets stronger,” Chegwidden said. “And vice versa. You see golfers nowadays, and it’s not like back in the 70s where guys were totally out of shape smoking cigarettes and drinking a beer. You see guys like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy who are all ripped.”
The training allows the golfers to practice their skills as a team, especially for newcomers such as Axelson.
“Utilizing practice facilities as a team has helped me build strong relationships with teammates and also improve my overall game,” Axelson said.
The Titans have experienced success in the past including the GSAC and Region XIX championships in 2007. They were the runners-up in the region in 2013 and earned a place in the national tournament last year.
“I really think that these guys really believe we could win it all this year.”
Jim Chegwidden Titans golf coach
“Our goal every year is to win the conference championship, to win the region championship, and to qualify for the national championship as a team,” Chegwidden said. “We’ve done that pretty well as over the past 13 years we have qualified 10 times. We have a very good chance, but there’s some good teams this year. Last year, I’m going to say, was a down year. I was a little surprised that we made the national tournament last year. But it was a pleasant surprise.”
College golf matches involve many different aspects of the sport, including different rule systems and properly marking a ball. The matches usually take between four and a half to five and a half hours, so it is an all day event for the team.
“At the end, the kids all come in and they all have to go over their scores in each group, hole by hole,” Chegwidden said. “That’s the most important part of the scoring. It doesn’t matter really what the final score is, it’s their hole by hole score. Once they do that, they sign their cards, and if they sign for a lower score and their score happens to be wrong and it’s a higher score, they get disqualified. If they sign for a higher score, they don’t get disqualified.”
Meanwhile, Chegwidden emphasized the bonding a golf team will experience during a season despite it often considered an individual sport.
“I actually just sent one of my kids a text message last night,” Chegwidden said. “I said to him, you know, I’m glad that you’re with us, and I hope that your experience here helps you with not only your golf experience, but your life experience. The best part about coaching at CCM is that I still get to see a lot of my former players because golf is a social sport. I still have a lot of players that call me to go play. I see a lot of them that work in the golf industry.”
The Titans will host a home tournament noon Monday, April 16 at Farmstead Golf Club. They are members of the Garden State Athletic Conference and Region XIX of the NJCAA.