Once again Eastern Florida's men's golf team will compete in the NJCAA District 4 Championship for the right to advance to the national tournament.
But this year the stakes exceed the Titans qualifying for their 14th consecutive national appearance under head coach Jamie Howell.
After all the Titans are hosting the NJCAA Division I Men's National Championship May 16-20 at Viera's Duran Golf Club.
The 54-hole district tournament is Monday and Tuesday at Terri Pines Country Club in Cullman, Alabama. Ten teams are competing. The top five advance to the national tournament.
Last April at Alexander City, Alabama the Titans won the tournament for the second time in the last three years and the fifth time in the last 13 years. Then-freshman Sweeney won the individual title.
The Titans went on to finish second at the national tournament, their best finish under Howell.
But that was 2015. The Titans are focused on 2016.
"Naturally we want to come back home to compete in the national tournament," Howell said. "And naturally we would like to come home as district champion but there are nine other teams with the same goal."
So how does Howell assess his team at this point?
"We've been getting a little better," he said. "I believe they grasp basically what's taking place a little bit better and they manage themselves better.
"The biggest pressure has been not focusing on the nationals every single day, not worrying about what coming down the road in May," Howell said. "It's more about 'let's prepare for what's coming next on our schedule.'
"If anything the guys are antsy. They want to get on with it. There's a lot on their plate yet in the back of their mind they know what's coming. Part of my job is 'gentlemen, let's take care of today, Tomorrow's coming soon enough.'"
The Titans finished the spring regular season with three second-place and one third-place result after two victories in five fall season tournaments. The best individual spring performance was by Bawden who tied for second in the Florida Tech Panther Invitational.
Sweeney won the fall District Preview in Cullman in September.
"This year we are smidgen stronger on the deep end of the team, which could be a big difference for us," Howell said.
"I would like to see us start really well and then finish. Our capability is obvious. We can flat out play golf. We have to put it together. I would love to see the guys go out and play the way they are capable of. Not perfect. Just play well."
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