Vignettes and Observations from the NCAA Division III Men’s Golf Championships by former Greensboro News & Record reporter Jim Schlosser ’65
The Coach Has Game
You’ll have to excuse him if Guilford College golf coach Justin Tereshko doesn’t have the fondest memories of playing golf at the Grandover Resort and Spa.
In 2011, Tereskho played for Transylvania University, which traveled from its Lexington, Kentucky, campus to Greensboro for the Division III Men’s Golf Championship. That year the tournament started a policy that cut the field – then 40 schools – to 15 after 36 holes.
“I got hit with a double whammy,” he said.
First, Transylvania and several other schools had a playoff for the 15th spot. Transylvania lost. Tereshko and his teammates walked off the course heartbroken. Then he got a message. He needed to play in a playoff to continue as an individual in the tournament, which gives individual and team trophies.
“I hit my tee shot way into the woods,” he said. “I don’t even remember if I finished the hole.”
He’s in a better mood seven years later as coach of the Guilford Quakers, who share the first-round clubhouse lead with Emory University at four-under par. Lurking not too far behind is Tereshko’s alma mater, Transylvania.
Tereshko differs from many college golf coaches in that, if eligible to play, he would probably be Guilford’s best player – and that’s saying plenty as the Quakers are loaded with talent. Tereshko plays many amateur events in the regionally and nationally. He won the North Carolina Amateur last year and made the round off 32 at the U.S. Amateur in 2014.
He replies, “Normally, yes,” when asked if he can beat his players. But not always. He played in a tournament once with them, “and I finished last.”
In addition to being a talented player, he has a knack for attracting good golfers from faraway places to Guilford, without the benefit of golf scholarships, which are not allowed in Division III. Zachary Evens, whose first-round 68 leads the individual completion through the suspended first round, comes from Mercer Island, Washington, near Seattle.
“Zach contacted me through a family friend,” Tereshko said. The coach and Evens talked on the phone for hours, which led to a visit to Guilford’s campus and his eventual enrollment.
Josh Hill is a junior from Superior, Colorado, and Kell Graham is a sophomore from Scottsdale, Arizona. To be fair, Tereskho says, Graham grew up in Charlotte, but his parents now live in Scottsdale. The other Guilford starters are almost hometown boys.
Addison Manning is a freshman from Stoneville in Rockingham County, and James Mishoe is sophomore from Cary near Raleigh.
These guys, with Tereskho’s coaching, won five collegiate events during the 2017-18 season, including Guilford’s league-record 17th Old Dominion Athletic Conference Tournament. Those victories came after a runner-up finish at the 2017 Division III Men’s Championship, played in Florida. This may be the year that Tereshko’s team finishes first. He would join the late Guilford coach Jack Jensen as an NCAA winner. Jensen, who coached the Quakers for 33 years before his death in 2010, led his team to NCAA titles in 2002 and 2005 and the 1989 NAIA national championship. (Guilford joined the NCAA in 1991-92).
Until Friday, when the 72-hole NCAA event ends, Tereskho will be focused entirely on his team. Friday night, he will get in his car and drive 12 1/2 hours to Jupiter, Florida, to play the next day with his brother, Brandon, in the USGA Amateur Four-Ball Tournament.
When Matt Organisak of Emory University said, “I really had to grind,” he wasn’t talking about the three-under-par 69 he shot Tuesday at Grandover Resort and Spa. His sub=par round left him tied for second in medalist competition after the first round of the Division III Men’s Golf Championship.
No, the sophomore was talking about how darn hard it is academically at the Atlanta school, considered one of the nation’s brainiest.
“I had to take some time off from golf in the last two or three weeks,” he said of Emory’s examination period. “All I could think about was coming to play in the nationals, but I had to be focused on finals.”
With exam books turned in, Organisak shifted Tuesday to having fun playing golf. He putted well, hit the ball solidly and “executed the way I wanted to,” he said.
He and Ryan Isaacson of the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire trailed Guilford College’s Zachary Evens of Mercer Island, Washington, who fired a four-under 68. The trio played Grandover’s 6,780-yard West Course, considered slightly easier than the 7,150-yard East Course, which it plays Wednesday.
Isaacson is playing all by his lonesome self in the tournament. His team failed to qualify for the tournament. But Isaacson, a finalist for the Division III Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award (to be announced May 31), was chosen as an individual because his of his outstanding play during Eau Claire’s fall and spring seasons. He is one of seven players playing as individuals this week. There are 42 teams – made up of five players each – competing for the team title. Guilford, last year’s runner-up, and Emory are tied for leaders in the clubhouse at four-under par.
Organisak says he would love to play the PGA Tour eventually, but he is looking at options. He’s majoring in qualitative science, which, he said, will prepare him to be a data scientist. He is taking plenty of statistical and economics courses.
Isaacson most likely will make a career of golf. He is majoring in physical education, teaching, and coaching. He hopes to be a golf coach at the high school or college level. If he winds up at a high school, he’ll guarantee the golf team won’t have the same experience he in high school.
The golf team, he said, was coached by a Spanish teacher, who, while a nice guy, “knew nothing about golf.”
A Long Time Coming
It took more than four decades, but North Carolina Wesleyan College finally made it to the NCAA Division III Golf Championships this year. The Battling Bishops from the United Methodist-affiliated school in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, won its first conference tournament in 43 years. The USA South Athletic Conference victory earned them an automatic place at the national championship tournament this week at the Grandover Resort and Spa.
Wesleyan’s lack of success can be explained by the abundance of success of at least four other schools in the USA South Conference, of which Wesleyan is a member. Those schools are Greensboro College, LaGrange College, Methodist University and Huntingdon University. The four have dominated conference play for years, and have also done well in the NCAA tournament. Methodist, located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has won the Division III championship 11 times and has been runner-up three times. Greensboro has won two NCAA titles and fellow USA South member Averett University won the 2003 title.
Maybe Wesleyan has been a little lax on the golf course in the past, says sophomore Mariano Silvestri of Argentina.
“We now work hard,’’ he says, explaining how the team turned it around this year. Last year, it finished fifth in the conference tournament.
But there’s no escaping Greensboro, Methodist, and Huntingdon this week. Even though the three lost to Wesleyan in the conference tournament, their stellar play during the fall and spring golf seasons caused the NCAA to grant them wildcard entry into the national championship.
Golfing in the Big Apple
It’s not easy playing on a golf team in Manhattan, at a university with more than 50,000 students that has little grass on its campus in Greenwich Village and Washington Square.
The New Your University Violets qualified for the NCAA Division III Golf Championship at Grandover Resort & Spa this week by winning the Liberty League tournament. The league is made up of schools mostly in New York State.
“They played in the snow the last day,” said assistant coach Meagan Kenny, a former member of NYU’s women’s team, which finished fourth in the NCAA Division III women’s championship last week.
The men’s team’s home course is in Bloomfield, New Jersey, a 45-minute drive from Manhattan. The course is available only on Thursdays. On Tuesday, the team practices and plays at another New Jersey course.
One night a week, the golfers go to Chelsea Piers in Manhattan and hit balls into a net at a four-tier practice range.
The rest of the week the golfers hit the books.
“We were still in school until yesterday,” Kenny said. “Two of the players are taking exams here. We definitely put being students first.”
Many of NYU’s students have gone onto great things, if not in sports. Its alumni include 36 Nobel laureates and more than 30 winners of the Pulitzer Prize.