April 4, 2012
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech head golf coach Jeff Parks' message every day to his Bulldog players is simple: focus on the next shot.
Parks, who is in his third season as LA Tech's head coach, doesn't want his players living in the future and reliving the past. It's a mindset that he wants engrained into his team's collective thought process during practice and during events.
However, as the coach, Parks has the luxury of looking further into the future.
And ever since the Bulldogs found themselves on the outside looking in - on the NCAA Men's Golf Championships - following last season, Parks has had his focus on what it would take to lead Louisiana Tech to its first ever appearance in the NCAA Championships.
He keeps one eye on the present and the other on what might lie ahead.
"Ultimately, our team goal is to make the NCAA's," Parks said. "We can do that one of two ways. We can either win the WAC Championships (in May) or we can play well enough during the year to receive an at-large bid. One way or the other, that's our ultimate goal."
The Bulldogs started the 2011-12 season ranked in the high 90s by golfstat.com. History shows that in order to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, programs need to be ranked in the top 70 in the country following their respective conference tournaments.
Thus, Parks and Co. had work to do. After opening the fall season with an eighth-place finish in the 15-team Sam Hall Intercollegiate, Tech has finished in the top half of all but one of its nine tournaments through this past week's showing at LSU. Tech has recorded five top five finishes, including three straight.
Behind a talented and deep roster that is led by a foursome of seniors in Cody Blankenship, Jonathan Bale, Patrick Blunt and Cody Santone, the Bulldogs have slowly - but steadily - climbed up the rankings.
Following their fifth-place finish at the LSU National Invitation which featured wins over 35th ranked UT-Chattanooga as well as a number of BCS programs including Michigan, Minnesota and Boston College, the Bulldogs are ranked 67th in the country this week.
Historically, teams ranked in the Top 68 in the country have earned at-large bids to the NCAA Championships. So with two tournaments remaining - this week at the Memphis Intercollegiate and April 30-May 2 at the WAC Championships - Louisiana Tech is on the verge of making history.
"We haven't done anything yet," Parks said. "It's great that we've played well enough to crack the top 70, but the season doesn't end today. We still have plenty of work remaining. All we have done is put ourselves in a position to reach our goal."
Parks' goal for his team today is to get better leading up to the Memphis Intercollegiate. However, he is keeping one eye on the possibility of this year's squad making Tech golf history.