Point men’s golf preparing looking to upset in the SSAC conference championship

Published 11:07 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

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Point’s mens golf team is currently the 15th-ranked team in the NAIA, and the Skyhawks have a big few weeks ahead as they prepare for the Southern States Athletic Conference championship on April 22. 

Point last won a conference championship in 2021, but the Skyhawks moved from the Appalachian Athletic Conference to the AAC this year. The team is led by head coach Maddux Lytle, who is in his fourth year leading the program. Lytle was an assistant coach on the 2021 conference champion team and was named head coach after the season. 

After competing in the Roadrunner Classic on April 8-9, the Skyhawks are now fully focused on preparing for the three-day conference championship. 

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“A lot of it is just going to be building confidence and taking a look at everything we’ve done well over the year. Also, looking at the things we’ve struggled with and building a full assessment for each player,” Lytle said. “We may play a few golf courses between now and then just to see some different sights and hopefully build up the conference for everybody.” 

The conference championship will be played at Cambrian Ridge in Greenville. The course is a part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The trail holds some of the tougher courses in Alabama, but Lytle expects his team to have insider knowledge and bring extra preparation into the tournament. 

“Generally, most RTJ courses have three tiers per green, which makes it a little bit difficult and it requires you to be pretty precise on the approach shots,” Lytle said. “Luckily, we have RTJ Grand National just down the road. We played there last week just to help give a similar view of what we’re going to see. We have a guy on the team now that has played it, and our assistant coach has played it quite a bit.” 

The Skyhawks have excelled this season despite the youth of their roster. The team is made up of 12 underclassmen, with several of those underclassmen leading the way. 

Lytle is a young coach in his own right as he graduated from Point in 2018 after a highly successful career on the golf team. In year four as a head coach, Lytle has had to grow and learn more patience with the youth of his roster. 

“It’s taken a lot of patience. It’s definitely tested my patience, especially going straight from being a player to a coach. I say it all the time, it’s a little more difficult with the club not in my hands because I don’t have control,” Lytle said. 

“It’s really rewarding to watch these guys grow as golfers and young men. We’re still a pretty young team this year, but we’ve got a couple of sophomores playing for us that I’ve watched develop really mature games and attitudes. It’s really cool, and the older guys are setting that example for them.” 

Golf is a much different sport on the coaching side as compared to other major sports. Lytle has less control over what his players do on the course, but teaching discipline is one of the main aspects of coaching golf that is present in any sport. 

Point’s golf team boasts one of the more diverse rosters that you will see in college sports. The Skyhawks have players from Germany, Italy, South Africa and several from different states. Despite cultural differences, the team has been able to build chemistry on the course. 

“It’s actually a lot of fun to watch from that perspective. We’re representing multiple countries and multiple backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common and a bunch of goals in common, and that’s golf,” Lytle said. 

“It’s also just to win. When they spend as much time together as they do, especially the guys that travel consistently, they develop a really close friendship with each other with that one common goal of winning.” 

The Skyhawks have been headlined this season by sophomore Jacob Joseph this season. Joseph has led the way in most of Point’s competitions this spring, but the biggest change has been his maturity. 

“He’s one of the guys that we’ve put a lot of effort into to be more disciplined and maturing him on and off the golf course,” Lytle said. “Last year, he was a little bit of a knucklehead. We had to kind of keep him in line. He’s an aggressive golfer, and he has the right to be. He hits the ball a long way, and that’s an advantage, but when things are going bad it can be a disadvantage for him. He’s learned just how to hit safety shots, and he’s playing a much more disciplined game.” 

Joseph has been helped by Arrington Mooney, a transfer from Snead State, this season. Mooney has had an up-and-down season, but he will be one of the guys Point will rely on heading into the conference championship. 

“If we can get both of those guys going, we’ll be a really good team,” Lytle said. 

The Skyhawks have also been helped this season by solid performances for freshman Hayden Jackson. Jackson had not suited up for the Skyhawks before the spring, but he has given the team a nice lift this season. 

Lytle plans to carry their normal five to the conference championship in Greenville, those five being Joseph, Jackson, Dominik Wolf, Mooney and Duncan Howie. Other players could also travel depending on how practice goes. 

Dalton State will be the team to beat heading into the conference championship. The Roadrunners have won seven of the last eight conference championships and are currently ranked as the top team in the NAIA. 

Still, Lytle believes that when the Skyhawks put their best foot forward, they can be one of the toughest teams to beat in the conference and in the NAIA. 

“A couple of weeks ago we tied them for first in an event. I think that alone was an eye-opener for the guys that if we just play our game, and we can all bring our A or B game, we can compete with any team in the country if we can compete with them,” Lytle said. 

“If we take care of business each person respectively, then I think we can win this thing.”