DEFENDING CHAMPION SKYHAWKS SEEK TO REPEAT AT UPCOMING OVC GOLF TOURNAMENT
MARTIN, Tenn. – One year after hoisting its first-ever Ohio Valley Conference championship trophy, the University of Tennessee at Martin golf team returns to Muscle Shoals, Ala. with a repeat in mind for the 2017 OVC Championships on April 24-26.
The Skyhawks carded a final score of 879 (+15) last season, winning the OVC Tournament by one stroke over Morehead State. UT Martin ranked second after Day One before carrying a four-shot lead into the second round of the 54-hole tournament. After a slow start on the final day spiraled the Skyhawks down to as low as sixth place, UT Martin registered 11 birdies over its final 12 holes and endured an 87-minute rain delay to climb back up to the top of the standings.
Not only are the Skyhawks bidding for a team championship repeat but UT Martin will look to produce its third consecutive individual medalist. Brendon Caballero and Hunter Richardson each shot a 211 (-5) to win the titles in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Richardson knocked in a six-foot par putt on Hole No. 18 to clinch the team championship for the Skyhawks last season.
As a team, UT Martin ranks second in the OVC in scoring average (291.7), narrowly trailing Jacksonville State (291.3). The Skyhawks have won four tournaments while finishing in the top-three in seven of their 11 tournaments in 2016-17.
Two-time OVC Coach of the Year Jerry Carpenter will produce a familiar lineup for the 2017 OVC Championships, led by Richardson at No. 1. The senior trio of Austin Swafford (No. 2), Gavin Shellnut (No. 3) and Tyler Guy (No. 4) follow while freshman Jack Story will occupy the No. 5 slot.
Richardson enters the postseason atop the OVC standings with a 71.2 scoring average. The junior from Clarksville, Tenn. piled up four victories – including three consecutive tournaments in October – and was named adidas OVC Golfer of the Week five times this season.
The only current Skyhawk to appear in his fourth OVC Tournament is Swafford, who ranks ninth in the league in scoring average (73.2). The Lebanon, Tenn. native has finished in the top-six in five tournaments this season, including a pair of runner-up finishes in the Murray State Invitational (Sept. 12-13) and the SIUE Derek Dolenc Invitational (Sept. 26-27).
Shellnut, who hails from Franklin, Tenn., carries a 74.6 scoring average into his third career OVC Tournament appearance. He has finished in the top-15 in four tournaments in 2016-17, including a third-place finish in the Skyhawk Fall Classic on Oct. 3-4.
A Clarksville, Tenn. native, Guy owns a season scoring average of 74.5. He will be making his third career appearance in the OVC Tournament, as he is responsible for three top-11 finishes with a season-best third-place effort in the Grover Page Classic on March 13-14.
Making his OVC Tournament debut is Story, who accounts for a 75.0 scoring average. The Dickson, Tenn. native boast six top-20 finishes this year, including a 10th place effort in the Skyhawk Fall Classic on Oct. 3-4.
UT Martin will hold its official practice round at the Fighting Joe Golf Course at The Shoals on Sunday, April 23 at noon. The course, which is part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, is a par-72 course that plays at 7,258 yards. The Skyhawks are paired with Morehead State and Jacksonville State for Monday’s first round and will tee off from 10:30 to 11:10 a.m. Live scoring throughout the tournament can be found at the link above.