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Published: Tuesday, 4/15/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Owens golf team retools, makes strong drive for national champ

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
All-American Brandon Hoelzer from Fremont is a key player on Owens' golf team. All-American Brandon Hoelzer from Fremont is a key player on Owens' golf team.
OWENS COMMUNITY COLLEGE Enlarge

After finishing 10th in the country last year in the National Junior College Athletic Association D-II National Tournament, the Owens Community College golf team had only one returning player this year so it had to revamp its roster.

The turnover hasn't stopped the program's success. Owens, based in Perrysburg Township, has finished first in 10 of its last 11 tournaments, dating back to last September. The streak gave Owens a No. 1 ranking in the NJCAA D-II polls.

"Credit all goes to the kids, not me," said second year coach Josh Williams. "It is all from their hard work and dedication over the off season."

The weather made the off season workouts limited to drills inside, and then going out in 30 degree weather, with snow still on the ground, to hit balls outside.

At tournaments, typically five players compete with the top four rounds counting. Recently, those top Owens golfers have included returning All-American Brandon Hoelzer from Fremont; Dru Hein from Jasper, Ind.; Kirby Manown of Belle Vernon, Penn.; Philippe Weppernig of Switzerland; and Harrison Long of the United Kingdom. 

Even though the players are new, they still have two goals: winning the NJCAA regionals for the second straight year, then winning the school's first NJCAA national championship in any sport in about two decades. 

Last year, the team was disappointed in finishing 10th when it entered the tournament ranked third in the NJCAA. This year, the team has been top ranked throughout much of the season.

"The drive of the guys is they want to win a national championship," Williams said. "They want to do something that hasn't been done before."

The coach has been able to use national title expectations in goals while recruiting players from all over the world. Two international players from Europe are big contributors as freshmen this season. 

"It is easier to recruit when you are the No. 1 team in the country," Williams said. 

Williams, a Perrysburg resident, has said he keeps an open mind recruiting players from far away to get talent. In coming years, he said, the school will have more players from all over the country. He already is recruiting for 2015. 

There are six more tournaments, starting this weekend in Cincinnati, before Owens looks to defend its NJCAA regional title at Belmont Country Club on May 4. The team will have to keep advancing after that to achieve the players' goal of the program's first national championship.

"They want to win it for the guys who played here last year, and previous years," Williams said. "That has been my dream, to win a national title here."

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.



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