CULLMAN, Ala. — Darton lost a player right before its season opener, then threw up a dreadful score on the first hole with a combined 5-over by the team before eventually settling down to finish alone in third place out of 11 teams Monday at the Wallace State Invitational.
“Just a pretty average day,” said Darton head golf coach Dale Dover, who found out hours before the team teed off that sophomore returner Tae Kim had been ruled academically ineligible. “I’m not saying we played awful, but we didn’t play good. We were just average. They guys were disappointed to hear about Tae. I’m sure that was on their minds.”
Darton finished 5-under as a team, and while any score under par is usually good, it trails Central Alabama (-10) and leader and host Wallace State (-13) with only a round left to play after the teams played 36 holes Monday.
The Cavs, who felt anything less than a second-place showing would’ve been a disappointment, were led by British freshman Josh Glossup, who shot 3-under. Sophomores Madison Turner and Taylor Martin were next at 2-under, followed by freshman Jake O’Bryan at 2-over. Former Seminole County star Tyler Shamblin, a two-time Albany Herald Player of the Year, struggled at 14-over and his score was not counted.
Dover did feel good about the fact the Cavs were in third place while competing against seven programs that made the NJCAA Division I National Championship last year, but he has high expectations this year’s Darton team could legitimately challenge for its first national title since the program won its last of three straight in 2007.
“Losing Tae hurts, yeah, but we have a deep, talented team and guys who can step up,” Dover said. “I thought we’d play a little better than we did (Monday), but if we can put a 273 or 275 (today), we can get back in the hunt.”
Dover added that the details the team worked on during summer practice did show up in their play, and he lauded the maturity on the golf course shown by his his two remaining sophomores.
“Madison and Taylor are showing a lot of composure out there. A lot more than last year,” Dover said. “That kind of stuff takes time, but they’re showing real maturity.”
Dover retired two years ago and turned the program over to former player Bill Jones III, who left after two seasons to pursue another opportunity. He returned to coach one season and hopefully hand the program off to newly hired associate head coach Gary Hilton. Monday was Dover’s first chance to observe Hilton, another former Darton player for Dover in 2002, and Dover said he liked what he saw.
“I’m letting him be hands on, encouraging him to get in there and do his thing,” Dover said. “And he’s doing a good job so far.”