SUFFOLK, Va. (September 26, 2017) – In the last few years, Richard Watkins has had to put together two North Carolina A&T golf teams. Last September, the first-ever N.C. A&T varsity women’s golf program premiered in Murray, Ky.
On Monday, Sept. 25, Watkins presented the latest N.C. A&T team as the men debuted at the Hampton University Golf Invitational at the 7,007-yard, par-72 Sleepy Hole Golf Course.
The men finished third behind North Carolina Central and Hampton after the final round on Tuesday. The men led after the first day after Luis Acevedo led the way after firing a 76 in the first round and a 74 in the second round on Monday. After the first day, Acevedo was in second place, but finished fifth after shooting a 12-over par 84.
The first results from the men’s team shows they could have just as much success as the women’s team did during their first season. Maybe that is because Watkins used the same method to build both programs – the A&T brand.
“It is certainly the biggest key,” said Watkins about N.C. A&T’s identifiable marks like the A&T interlocking logo. “Players know who A&T is, and they know or have heard how great this campus looks and what the school offers. I used to go to events and were my A&T paraphernalia, and it would make (golfers) nervous. I don’t do that anymore, but when I say I am from A&T, they want to get on this campus.”
There were some differences in building the men’s team. There are more men playing golf and more collegiate men’s programs. Therefore, the men’s pool is bigger, but because of the scholarship rules that govern the NCAA, sometimes Watkins’ women’s program is more attractive to women than his men’s program is to men.
“The dynamics are different when you’re out recruiting,” said Watkins. “It’s a different process. There are quality women’s golfers out there, there are just more men playing. It is a matter of identifying the quality female golfers. Once you find the women, you can make A&T very appealing to them. But just like with the women, we have already identified some guys we can bring in next year to make us even better.”
Going into the week’s inaugural tournament for the men, Watkins didn’t know how his freshmen would react to playing at longer distances and for a longer period of time. The Hampton Invitational was 36 holes on Monday and 18 holes on Tuesday.
Edward Trent led the freshman. In his opening round as a collegiate athlete, he shot a 9-over 81, but later in the day he improved to shoot a 2-over 74. Trent shot 80 to close the tournament in sixth place by shooting 19-over par. Freshmen Casey Lindo finished ninth at 25-over while Cameron Bryant’s best round was an 11-over par 83. Junior Cody Lisner finished eighth at 24-over par.
“It is going to take some time for my freshmen to get used to playing 54-hole events,” said Watkins. “Right now, their games are not ready stand it. Thirty-six holes in two days is one thing, but 36 holes in one day and 54 holes in two days is mentally a tough grind. We may have to lean on Luis and Cody early on because they are more prepared to play in collegiate golf tournaments.”
Watkins’ latest golf team returns to action in a month when they play in the Virginia State University Trojan Fall Classic, Oct. 23-24 in Petersburg, Va.