• 59°

Point men’s golf ranked No. 1 in NAIA

Near the end of its 2020 spring season, the Point University men’s golf team was on a tear. It had won its last four matches heading into the final two events of the year.

Then, COVID-19 cut the season short, finishing a month before the Appalachian Athletic Conference qualifier, which is the step before the NAIA National Championship Tournament.

“We got very frustrated because we had won our last four,” senior Eric Wower said. “We felt prepared. Halfway through our last event, we got a call from the university saying you guys might need to come back. Thankfully, the coaches were able to persuade and kept us playing, but it was very frustrating.”

Instead of sulking because their season was cut short, the Skyhawks used their frustration as motivation during the summer.

When the fall season started in late September, the Skyhawks continued their hot streak, winning their first match of the season by 48 strokes, shooting 24-under at the Point University Fall Invitational.

Their hot start to the season continued, winning their next three matches, facing six ranked teams in that span.

Senior Ruan Pretorius thinks the team’s closeness and hard work is the reason Point has started the season so hot.

“Of course, we practice very hard every day, but I think our team bonding is very good,” Pretorius said. “We are very close to each other, and I feel like that is keeping us strong.”

Because of their dominant start to the season, the Skyhawks were ranked as the No. 1 team in the NAIA by Golfstat.

“It was pretty exciting, but our goal is to win nationals,” Wower said. “Just being No. 1 in Golfstat after the first semester is pretty cool, but we still have our goal.”

In their latest tournament, the Skyhawks played as a team, not splitting off into pairs with other schools. Wower said that added to the team’s rivalry and competitiveness, which pushed it to finish first.

“Even though we wanted everyone to play well, we all got super competitive and upset at the same time. We were chasing each other without worrying about the rest of the field. The next thing you know, we are leading by a lot just because we are playing against each other,” Wower said.

Wower and Pretorius have been in the middle of the Skyhawks’ success this year.

At the end of the spring 2020 season, Wower was named a First-Team All-American and an NAIA Jack Nicklaus Award Finalist (which is given to the top golfer).

“I was very excited,” Wower said. “Last semester, I was playing decent damage control and playing to my strengths. When I finished First-Team All-American, it was exciting. It was another step forward. It’s great to be first team, but like every other athlete, I want to stand on the top. This year’s goal is to be top-five, be a First-Team All-American, win possibly nationals and the Jack Nicklaus Award.”

Pretorius, on the other hand, has been named the AAC Golfer of the Week twice this season. The senior from Bloemfontein, South Africa, stayed in Georgia during the summer working on his craft.

His hard work during the off-season paid off, as he is currently the No. 6 golfer in the NAIA according to Golfstat.

“After our season got cut short, we were hungry coming into the summer and into the next semester,” Pretorius said. “I worked very hard during the summer. I didn’t go home back to South Africa. I stayed in the U.S. I practiced hard and tried to get better. It’s all paid off, and I just need to stay focused and keep it going.”

Point finished its fall season on Tuesday by winning the Coastal Georgia Fall Invitational by 16 strokes, which improved its winning streak to nine tournaments dating back to the spring of 2020.