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PREVIEW: Darton takes first step toward nationals today

Darton’s Parks Brown leads the Cavs into regionals today in Tifton. Brown, the team’s No. 3 golfer, has been the team’s most consistent player the last two weeks. (john.millikan@albanyherald.com)

Darton’s Parks Brown leads the Cavs into regionals today in Tifton. Brown, the team’s No. 3 golfer, has been the team’s most consistent player the last two weeks. (john.millikan@albanyherald.com)

TIFTON — Darton No. 1 golfer Nick Green has heard whispers that other Region XVII teams think they have a chance to end the Cavs’ streak of 11-straight titles in this week’s Region XVII tournament.

Green’s response: Think again.

The nationally-ranked No. 8 Cavs are undefeated against Region XVII opponents this season and are heavy favorites as they tee off in today’s opening round at the Golf Club of South Georgia in Tifton.

Green and the Cavs are a month removed from their lone victory of the season and are playing some of their best golf of the season — but other teams around the region think this could be the season Darton’s reign ends.

“I have heard there have been some rumors going around that (other teams) think they have a chance,” Green said. “ABAC said that they had a chance and that we weren’t that good this year. We had heard that right before (Darton’s Doublegate Invitational), and then we beat them. So we are going to give it to them again, and this time it will be on their home course.”

The Cavs not only beat No. 1 Central Alabama and No. 10 Wallace State in their own invitational, but they routed ABAC by 32 strokes — the closest any region opponent as been all season.

“They have had plenty of opportunities and haven’t proved they can beat us yet, so I guess they will have another chance,” Darton No. 3 golfer Parks Brown said.

Green doesn’t believe ABAC’s chances are all that great.

“I think if every team in our region is on their A game and we are on our B game that we can still win by 10 strokes,” Green said.

Confidence is through the roof at Darton, where the Cavs don’t just expect to win the region title but think a national championship isn’t out of the question. The Cavs won three straight NJCAA Division III national titles from 2005-07 but have been denied a crown since moving to Division I.

“We can win out,” Green said. “If we play to our capabilities, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we can win out. We are all so talented from top to bottom. We have guys at the bottom of our lineup that are shooting 75 and have been doing it all year.”

Green headlines Darton’s lineup, which also includes TaeHyung Kim, Parks, Robert Robertson and Madison Turner. Taylor Martin, who has the No. 2 scoring average on the team, will sit out the three-day tournament because of a sore back but will be back for next week’s District IV Championship.

Green, a sophomore from Covington, won an individual title at the Faulkner State Invitational back in February and has been the Cavs’ No. 1 golfer all spring.

“We didn’t expect it, but I hope he did,” Darton coach Bill Jones III said of Green’s success this year. “He expected it and wanted to prove us wrong. He is a good player and a hard worker and has come a long way in a year and a half. He has rounded a corner this semester and has given us a lot of good scores.”

While Green has the team’s top scoring average, Brown has been the most consistent golfer in the past month for the Cavs, and Kim is coming off a team-best seventh-place finish March 16 in the Ron Marshall Spring Fling at Goose Pond Colony in Scottsboro, Ala.

The Cavs were fifth out of 21 teams in the tournament but could have finished near the lead if not for poor putting performances. Jones said his players have worked tirelessly on their short games in the past month and have started to turn a weakness into a strength.

“As soon as we got back from Goose Pond is when we really noticed how poorly we have been putting this whole season,” Jones said. “The very next day was Sunday when we got back from Goose Pond, and I had them out on the golf course putting for two, two-and-a-half hours. They never left the putting green.”

Green says the workouts have helped.

“I don’t even think we saw the range for four or five days,” Green said. “We were on the putting green knocking in three- and six-footers and working on lag putts all day. Our backs were killing us when we were done, but my putting has gotten a lot better.”

The Cavs tee off at 9 a.m. today and will play one round each of the next three days with the champion being crowned Tuesday.

And there’s no doubt in Green’s mind that the Cavs will bring home their 12th region championship trophy in a row.

“We are always so much more talented than other teams in our region, and this year especially we have so much talent that we all working hard to get ready for nationals, and this will be a good, little tune-up for us,” Green said. “None of us are really nervous about continuing the streak. It’s just another tournament, and we have to go out there and play.”