Leadership is a factor in many sports, and though most wouldn’t expect golf to be among them, it’s the driving force behind the USD men’s golf team.
The Coyotes have continued to excel in the Summit League this season with the lowest average scorers in the league. The team’s success is due in large part to the leadership of a few key team members.
“The guys are really good at just staying positive and moving forward,” said John Vining, assistant coach of the men’s golf team. “And, trying to reevaluate what we can do better.”
One leader, said Vining, is senior Cody Seal. Seal is currently number three in the Summit League standings as an individual.
“I just think that this year has been a culmination of the three years prior that I’ve spent here,” Seal said. “I think I’ve kind of had good spurts from the last three years, but I think all the experience and all the practicing has come into its own this year. My short game has always been pretty good, but I’ve really been working on my long game and my driving over the last couple years. That’s been paying off for me this year.”
Another leader of the team is freshman Hunter Paugh. Paugh won the Summit League Golfer of the Week for the period ended March 14 after his success in the SDSU Jackrabbit Invitational in Las Vegas.
Paugh recorded two under par in the first round, a career low of 68 in the second round and finished the tournament five under par to win the award for the first time in his career.
Though golf is an individual sport, team culture is the primary means of supporting each other on the course, Paugh said.
“The golf team’s just an awesome group of guys. Just ten of us, so it’s not like the football team that has like 80 to 100 guys,” he said. “We talk a lot about team culture, and I think that’s what makes our team great. And our team’s seen a lot of success and we have a lot of talent, and we can go really far, and a lot of that ties into having a good team culture.”
The team will go to Arkansas April 3-4 for the Arkansas State Red Wolves Intercollegiate.
The next major event the team is preparing for is the Summit League Championships, which run from April 30 to May 2.
“Our site is set on conference (Summit League Championships) this year. So, if we win conference, we go to nationals, which I believe is held in North Carolina,” Paugh said. “That’s our goal for this year, is to make it there.”
Only five players can play in the Summit League Championships, meaning some of the team won’t be able to attend.
“Come three or four weeks down the road, we’re going to have to make a decision on collecting our Summit League roster as just five guys,” Vining said. “And we’ve had more than that making a difference all year long.”
Individual success is driven by a supportive team, Paugh said.
“I think we all do a good job of pushing each other out there,” he said. “We all did a good job of pushing each other forward at that tournament, and that’s what led to our good success.”