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Royals continue to rise in year two

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As the Eastern Mennonite golf teams enter their second season, the Royals are planning to build on their experience to reach greater heights in 2013-14.

Coach Wendell Eberly said his golfers are excited to see what year two holds in store.

“The year of experience is good because the golfers know what to expect when they go to a tournament,” Eberly explained. “They can relate this to the new golfers, but experience is the best way of knowing how to deal with the pressures of tournament play.”

While officially a spring sport with a national championship in May, the men’s and women’s golf teams also play a few events in the fall. The ODAC Championships are April 27-29 at the Rock Barn Golf Club in Conover, N.C.

After a year of seeing the status of golf in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, Eberly is continuing to point his teams to the basics.

“There are some really good golfers in the ODAC,” he said. “In order to improve you need to practice, but you also need to play as many tournaments as possible.”

Although the men’s squad must replace a couple of scoring seniors, both the men and women return their No. 1 golfer.

On the men’s side, sophomore Josh Alderfer (Faber, Va./Nelson County) had a round average of 81.7 last year with a low round of 77. He also had one top ten finish. Eberly expects him to be one of the top golfers in the ODAC in his second season. Freshman Mark Shaner (Lexington, Va./Rockbridge County) will be EMU’s No. 2 golfer, and he is a good golfer who will only get better with experience on the collegiate level.

Caleb Schlabach (Millersburg, Ohio/Hiland), who averaged 86.7 with a low round of 81 as a freshman, and senior Zach Bowles (Staunton, Va./Robert E. Lee) expect to round out the top four, with classmate John Toney (Buckingham, Va./Buckingham County) playing at the No. 5.

“Caleb did well as a freshman and continues to improve his game. His ball striking is excellent, and he is close to posting low scores,” said Eberly. “Zach is new to the team this year but has posted some low scores at Heritage Oaks. With some tournament experience he should be able to score in the low 80s. And John was on the team last year, but only went to one tournament. He is also a good ball striker and just needs more experience in tournament play.”

Senior Joel Murray (Hesston, Kan./Hesston) (88.2 in 2012-13) is also on the team, but will just fill in when needed during the fall. He will be off campus during the spring season on his cross cultural.

In their first year as a program, the Royals finished eighth out of ten teams at the ODAC Championships. While Eberly knows challenging the top programs in the league at this point would be a surprise, he does expect his men to challenge for a higher finish in the ODAC. They also want to limit the number of double and triple bogeys per round.

Brittany McDonaldson (Harrisonburg, Va./Harrisonburg) was the lone woman on the team last year, but she will be joined by junior Savanna Lester (Chesapeake, Va./Great Bridge) in 2013-14. McDonaldson averaged 90.1 a round last year with three top ten finishes in five tournaments. She took sixth at the ODAC Championships to earn ODAC All-Tournament Team status as a freshman.

“Brittany is a really good golfer and has a lot of tournament experience,” said Eberly. “She has worked hard on her game this past summer and should be able to improve on her sixth place finish at the ODACs. Savanna is new to the game but has made big improvement since last spring. Just playing in some tournaments and getting experience should improve her game.”

The goals for the women are to improve throughout the year and for McDonaldson to earn a top three finish at the ODAC Championships in April.

Even with the experienced golfers he returns, Eberly expects a slow start to this year as the new players get accustomed to the college game. The men have four tournaments slated for this fall, with the women playing in three, and each will add more in the spring.

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