CCM golf wins region, conference titles, place fifth in national tournament

By Brett Friedensohn

golf edited

CCM golf placed fifth in the national tournament at Chautauqua Golf Club in Chautauqua, New York. Left to right: Tommy Apostolico, Ricky Christensen, Ryan Ruben, Kyle Kepler and Nick Axelson. Photo Courtesy of: Twitter

The golf team at County College of Morris capped off a 36-1 season by sweeping both the region and conference championships and finishing the national title in the fifth seed, the highest ranking in the program’s history.


This marks the first region title at CCM since softball in 2016 and the first for golf since 2014.

The Titans clinched the top honor of the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XIX at an outing Monday, May 7 and Tuesday, May 8 when they racked up a team score of 314 at Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, New Jersey.

They earned the Garden State Athletic Conference Championship when they scored 310 also at Galloping Hill where freshman Kyle Kepler earned the tournament’s best individual score at 74.

The team then secured the fifth spot out of 12 community colleges with a score of 317 at Chautauqua Golf Club in Chautauqua, New York Friday, June 8.

CCM freshman Nick Axelson shot the 14th overall best score of the tournament at 313; he also earned a spot as an NJCAA third team All-American for the 2018 season.

“It comes down to a lot of different factors, obviously, but overall, it was just a good group of guys,” Axelson said. “I mean, we really got along together well as a team. We built off each other’s competition as well as amongst ourselves as well as the other teams we were facing.”

Axelson also said that head coach Jim Chegwidden kept the team focused on and committed to the sport.

“He was very much a leader for all of us and somebody that we can strive to be, like somebody that we almost want to emulate for his seriousness and doing everything the right way, no cutting corners and just really putting in the time and the effort, and that goes all the way back to preseason and the fall in just getting us into the gym, getting us a place to play schrimaches, getting us lessons with our assistant coach Mikey [Mrugal],” Axelson said. “We weren’t just screwing around just having fun. We were going in competitive trying to win.”

After the region title win and before nationals, Chegwidden said that this team was his best since 2007 when Morris won the region title and placed eighth in the country.

“Anything below eighth is going to be a good year; anything below fifth is going to be a great year,” Chegwidden said. “I think we’re going to need a lot of luck. The second thing is everyone’s going to have to understand that we’re going to get some bad shots. You have to get past that and just deal with what’s in front of you and not worry about what’s behind you. That’s why I like golf so much … It’s like life. If you worry about yesterday, then you can’t take care of things today, so if you hit a bad shot, and you let it affect the rest of your round, then you’re going to have a bad day.”

Chegwidden said that his ability to rely on all five team members helped lead to his team’s success.

“I think the fact that we had five guys that could step it up at any time, and anyone could step it up and be a leader this year,” Chegwidden said. “The No. 5 guy Ryan Ruban from Florida, when we were playing in the region qualifier in Hybrid Hills back on May 2, he really stepped it up, and he was the one that got us in the No. 1 seed, and then, the first day of the region tournament, we took a 10-stroke lead, and the second day, we got another 10-stroke lead. We ended up winning by 20 strokes, and Ricky Christiansen, a freshman from Little Falls, he stepped it up. At the region tournament, he placed third in the region tournament. So in the beginning of the season, Nick Axelson from Roxbury, he carried us for the first part of the year, and then, Kyle Kepler from Wharton started playing really well towards the end of the season … And then,  you had Tommy Apostolico steady throughout the whole season. He was just right around 80 all year long.”

Athletic director Jack Sullivan said that the team would have likely improved on their standing if given more time at nationals.

“They all shot better as they tournament went on, so I think if the tournament had a few more rounds, they would have even improved upon a fifth place finish,” Sullivan said. “I always think passion and desire to build a quality program comes from the coaches, and they have a personal connection to the school and the program.”

Axelson said that he probably played his best golf last year, his senior year playing at Roxbury High School. During the fall 2017 semester, he attended Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina to play golf and study professional golf management, but when he found that he did not play as much as he had hoped, he transferred to CCM. He said that the lack of golf played between high school and CCM has hindered his game, and he hopes to practice more in preparation for next season to rebound.

“I’ve got a lot of parts of my game that could use much improvement especially my short game,” Axelson said. “I think my putting let me down a lot this year, but just playing mid-season when you’re playing almost three, four times a week competing, your game surprisingly gets so much better so fast constantly playing and putting in that repetition. I guess that’s the one thing about next season is playing a lot of golf as a team and putting ourselves in situations with pressure and experiencing that before we have to deal with that is the biggest thing, the preparation.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that CCM golf’s most recent region title before 2018 was in 2007. While the Titans did win the title in 2007 and 2018, their most recent region title before this year was in 2014. The current version reflects that.

Titans golf drives, chips its way into a new season

CCM places in top two seeds in both opening tournaments

By Connor Iapoce
Sports Editor

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.


The 2018 CCM Titans golfers practice their swings at a pre- season session at the driving range. Photos courtesy of Twitter

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.”


Titans sophomore Kyle Kepler chips a ball on the green during a match.

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.