The best teams in NJCAA men's golf will tee it up Tuesday through Friday in the Division I Men's Golf Championship at Viera's Duran Golf Club.
Among them will be Eastern Florida's Titans who will be making their 14th consecutive national tournament appearance thanks to their third District 4 championship in the last four years.
The tournament is open to spectators free of charge.
Sweeney also tied for second with then-teammate and classmate Mickey DeMorat in last year's national tournament as the Titans recorded their best finish, second, under head coach Jamie Howell.
DeMorat transferred to NCAA Division I Liberty University last August.
Live scoring will be available at www.golfstat.com/home.html
Eastern Florida won seven nationals titles as Brevard Community College, the most recent in 1991, all under then head coach Floyd Horgen. The Titans will be competing in the tournament for the 47th time in the college's 57-year history.
Seven Titans also won individual national championships: Mike Smith in 1971; Butch Girard, 1976; Steve LaMontagne, 1985; Richard Sadler, 1991; Lyle Patton, 2002; Jacob Davis, 2004; and Billy Anderson, 2011.
The trophies and plaques that adorn the team's home base at the Fred Gay Golf Academy adjacent to the Cocoa Campus attest to the legacy.
That legacy is not lost on the current players. It also is an itch that can't be scratched.
"Why don't we have one?" asked Sweeney. "Why should I be happy when I come in here and see national championship trophies? Why am I not coming back with a national championship ring?
"Why should I come in here all flattered about what this program has done? The past means nothing. Right now I am looking at what I need to get done with my team and what we need to get done together.
"Coming in here you can look and admire about what we've done in the past years but that's not going to change what's going to happen tomorrow or now. If anything it should motivate you."
Herman seconded Sweeney.
"It hurt, it hurt a lot last year," Herman said of the runner-up finish, the trophy for which sat on a shelf not far to his right.
"This year it's been a driving factor for sure. As much as it's nice seeing the past champions it doesn't mean anything today."
At the same time the anticipation is palpable.
"It's the event I've look forward to the most throughout the year. To walk onto the first tee and know I'm competing against the best players in junior college golf is an exciting feeling and one I won't forget. I'm working hard and so is the team. We have work to do but we'll be ready when the first shot is hit on the 17th of May." – Bradley Bawden
"What does it mean to go to nationals? It means a great deal to have qualified for this team and to represent Eastern Florida State College. I have a great opportunity a head of me in the coming week. The team and I have been preparing for this moment since the first practice back in August. I can't wait to send that ball down the first hole to hear coaches say "beauty there man" while picking up the tee. It's been a great year and can't wait to cap it off at Duran for that national title." - Tyler Bennett
"Being able to compete in the national championship in back-to-back years is a great opportunity. I can take a little experience into this and hopefully benefit the team with some insight. We have had our eyes on this since the first meeting in the fall and it hasn't changed. Our team and coaches are prepared and we have plenty of support from the community to go into this looking for a victory. We're excited and ready for the challenge ahead of us." – Corey Herman
"To many, a chance at a national title could be nothing shy of a dream come true. For a competitive team such as ours, we strive to not only attend the national championship each year, but to be in contention from start to finish and in the end taking home the title. For me personally it is the finale of two years of hard work and dedication. I was not able to be a part of the five who competed in nationals my freshman year. To have the opportunity to participate in the national championship my sophomore year is not only a chance for me to show the nation what I am made of, but to show the nation what Eastern Florida Golf is made of." - Michael Keymont
"My goals coming into the program have never changed since day one. We are very talented and for us to be representing our school for history means the world to me. To drive all year makes this a special event and purposeful as it will be my last under Coach Howell. I hope to be a part of history and represent myself as a character of profession for the game." - Kerry Sweeney
Practice rounds will be held Sunday and Monday at Duran which will measure 7,151 yards from the Onyx tees. The 72-hole tournament runs Tuesday through Friday with first tee times each day at 7:30 a.m.
Eastern Florida will be paired in a threesome with Midland College of Texas and defending national champion Indian Hills Community College of Iowa for the first two rounds. They are two teams Howell believes will be among the Titans toughest competition.
The field is: Eastern Florida; Wallace State, Alabama; Darton State, Georgia; Faulkner State, Alabama; Central Alabama; Indian Hills, Iowa; Iowa Western; Dodge City, Kansas; Hutchinson, Kansas; Garden City Community College, Kansas; Midland College, Texas; Odessa, Texas; McLennan, Texas; Western Texas; Ranger, Texas; Pima, Arizona; Eastern Arizona; Scottsdale, Arizona; Eastern Wyoming; McCook, Nebraska; Spartanburg Methodist College, South Carolina.
Individual qualifiers are Greyson Benavides, Paris, Texas and Chase Brown, Cape Fear, North Carolina.
As for the course, Howell expects Duran, big and wide-open to begin with, to be a challenge.
"It will lull you to sleep thinking you can drive it anywhere out there," he said. "As wide as it is there are lines on the course that you want basically to find. It gives you a better strategic second shot into a par 4 or a third shot into a par 5 maybe.
"The greens can be huge, they can be medium sized, they can subtle with break or they can be pronounced. Being on the proper side of the hole is always an advantage."
And then there's the weather.
"Duran can be windy," Howell said. "It's a wind tunnel on the west side of I-95. We play in the wind year around as much as anybody. The teams from Texas will love the wind. The teams from Kansas, they're playing in the wind.
"Our task is making sure we know the character of the course when the wind blows from different directions and how the holes play."
As for his team's mindset, Howell sees the one-week break between final exams and the start of the tournament as a plus along with the tournament being played on home turf.
In the end, its performance that matters.
"The guys have to recognize you can't rest on our laurels," Howell said. "You have to be ready to play. If anything my goal all along has not been to prepare them to be the home team. We're preparing them to play in the national tournament."
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