When his team won the conference tournament back in April, Schreiner golf coach Ron Macosko did not call the jeweler to have the customary championship rings ordered. Though he’d done it the year before, Macosko sensed there was something worth waiting for this time around.
He’s glad he put it off, and now he can order some even bigger bling. Schreiner went on to the NCAA Division III Men’s Championship in Greensboro, N.C., last week and won the Mountaineers’ first national championship in golf since the school became a four-year institution in 1980. Macosko and his wife Anna came to Schreiner in 2005, and both oversee the golf program.
“We still are talking about it, that ‘Hey, we won the national championship,'” Macosko said. “It’s remarkable.”
The Mountaineers, ranked 16th coming into the tournament, took the lead in the first round and kept it the rest of the way. With none of the five players being seniors, Schreiner took a three-shot lead over Division III power Oglethorpe (Ga.) with a round to go and expanded it to five at the end of play. Oglethorpe had won the national championship twice in the last four years.
Cheyne Kendall, a junior from Deer Park, finished second in the individual standings at even par (70-70-74-74), and junior Jimmy Keener (San Antonio’s O’Connor High School) was third nationally at 2-over (70-73-72-75).
“We’re very hands on with our players,” Macosko said. “When they make decisions on the golf course, we want them to think about playing for each other. We call it team golf. We want them to embrace it every day, and I think Cheyne and Jimmy did it to a tee at the national championship.”
“>Macosko’s approach to coaching is a shared concept that’s been been put into practice along with his wife Anna, who competed professionally including 1998-2004 on the LPGA Tour (she shot a 60 in the final round of the ’04 Longs Drugs Challenge to join Annika Sorenstam, Meg Mallon and Jung Yeon Lee as the fourth player in LPGA history to shoot 60 or better).
The Macoskos stress academics, which led to the golf squad being named Team Scholars heading into the NCAA event.
While Kendall has been a steady performer this season, Macosko said Keener has had to develop through inconsistency.
Keener won the team’s first tournament in the fall (the John Bohmann Memorial at Blanco’s Vaaler Creek) with scores of 72-73, and his first four competitive scores of the season came out to a stroke average of 72.0.
“And then we never saw that guy again until the Nationals,” Macosko said.
Keener’s next 13 rounds had a stroke average of 77.5, and then he came through his NCAA rounds at 72.5 for the third-place national finish.
“I told him ‘We don’t want to see that player that we had before nationals,'” Macosko said. “I just think he thought too much before a tournament even started, because you can see that his physical gifts are amazing — he has an excellent swing and great hands with great touch around the greens. And he works his tail off.”
Keener said his coach’s advice was helpful late in the NCAA tournament, when he knew things were close with Oglethorpe.
“That final round, for sure, our approach paid off,” Keener said. “Everyone was coming up to us telling us ‘Good luck, good luck.’ The other teams were scoreboard watching. I knew about where we were at, about where we stood (in the team results). But I think all of us stayed in the moment, we didn’t think about (winning the title). We took it one shot at a time.”
Keener came to Schreiner with his high school teammate Ian Davis. Though he did not make the traveling team to the NCAA Tournament, Davis was kept as team captain by Macosko.
“In addition to being a talented golfer, he’s a talented musician, and talented in a lot of things,” Macosko said of Davis. “I think he’s pulled in a lot of different directions. And I’m as much impressed with Ian as I am with anyone. He’s been an even better leader. He takes it upon himself to feel the need to make sure that the guys are practicing. His contributions are important.”
Davis and Keener are expected back for their senior seasons. And when everyone who played for Schreiner while winning at the national championship (Kendall, Zach Oliver, Matt McClung, Zach Oliver and Phil Stewart) is set to come back as well, it’s easy to see more chances at a national title next year.