April 29, 2012
HENDERSON, Nevada - Louisiana Tech head coach Jeff Parks has been consistent with his message to his golf team and Bulldog fans this year.
Their No. 1 goal is to win the Western Athletic Conference championship and earn the program's first ever bid to the NCAA Championships.
Starting Monday, Parks and Co. will begin their three-day quest for LA Tech golf history when they tee it up at Rio Secco Golf Club in the 50th annual Club Glove Western Athletic Conference men's golf championship at the 7,313-yard, par-72 course in Henderson, Nevada.
The Bulldogs will be paired with San Jose State during Monday's opening round as the event is slated for 54 holes over three days.
"Our mindset is to win," Parks said Sunday, prior to his team's afternoon practice round. "With our preparation throughout the year, I think we have positioned ourselves to do so. It's a matter of if we will. I know we can. The guys know we can. We just have to go perform."
The Bulldogs will be represented this week by seniors Cody Blankenship (73.5), Cody Santone (74.4) and Jonathan Bale (74.7), junior Sam Forgan (73.8) and sophomore Travis Wilmore (74.0). And according to Parks, the fivesome - along with their teammates back in Ruston - have a different mindset this year as compared to previous WAC Championships.
"I think there is quite a bit of difference from past years," said Parks, who has seen the five golfers combine for 18 Top 20 finishes this season. "In past years we always felt like we had a chance - you always have a chance - but this year being the highest ranked team going into (the event), it has changed our mindset. They expect to win. They know they can and believe it a little more."
"We have to drive it straight," Parks said. "This is a target golf course. If you get off the fairway, you are in rocks. We have to be patient, and obviously we have to make putts. Every team is going to have some shots they have to hit out of the rocks. A bit of luck is involved in the lie. However, the fewer times you have to get out of trouble, the better your chances.
"We have to hit it where we are aiming. We have to manage the wind. There is pressure to perform and to set history, but these guys just want to win a conference championship. They are handling everything pretty well so far."
Last season, Tech finished fourth in the event, the best ever since joining the league in July of 2001. Bale, Forgan and Santone have all competed at the course and the event in prior years, giving them some much-needed experience of the course.
The eight-team field consists of 70th ranked LA Tech, 77th ranked San Jose State, 81st ranked Nevada, 115th ranked New Mexico State, 136th ranked Idaho, 146th ranked Hawaii, 156th ranked Fresno State and 227th ranked Utah State. New Mexico State is the four-time defending champion after winning last year at Rio Secco by 13 strokes over San Jose State.
Tech fans can follow all of the live scoring at the event by logging onto www.golfstat.com.