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04-01-09, 07:51 AM
Players love Intercollegiate Golf Tournament

Sports Column
March 31, 2009 - 5:06 PM
Rick Scoppe
The Daily News

If you missed it - and by the paucity of fans you did - Methodist did it again. The Monarchs claimed the 38th Intercollegiate Golf Championship at Paradise Point aboard Camp Lejeune on Sunday.

It was Methodist's seventh title, tying Elon for the most ever.

Big deal, you say sarcastically?

Okay, there were no Tiger Woods out on the course during the three-day, 54-hole event that drew 30 five-man college clubs along with two military teams. But then there's no Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour except for the original.

Sure, as the NCAA likes to say in its self-serving television advertisements, most of these golfers are going pro in something other than their sport. But there were no doubt a few among the 150 golfers who battled the par-72 Golf Course and the easier par-70 Scarlet layout who could wind up on the PGA Tour down the road.

Ever hear of Chad Collins? Maybe not, but the former Methodist standout won the Intercollegiate all four years he was at the Fayetteville school and in 2008 pocketed just shy of $340,000 on the PGA Tour.

But these days golf doesn't seem to be much of a spectator sport unless Tiger's involved. Still I was mildly surprised that the only fans on the course watching the Intercollegiate seemed limited to coaches, parents and girlfriends.

But then this tournament isn't just about golf as Methodist coach Steve Conley told Col. Richard Flatau, commanding officer of Camp Lejeune, at the awards ceremony Sunday after the Monarchs had beat back the final-day challenge of Oglethorpe.

"This is just a game," Conley said. "What you guys do is for real."

No better evidence of that was needed than during Friday's opening round when a Marine helicopter flew over the course even while the golfers were spanned out across the two courses playing a game where small American flags fluttered in the breeze on the tee boxes.

To a man, every golfer I talked with during the three-day tournament said they loved this tournament. While there were no major Division I teams within a Happy Gilmore slap shot (or tee shot) of Paradise Point, there were plenty of top-flight "lower division" schools out to capture the bronze eagle that went to the winner.

Beyond that, however, the golfers spoke of the camaraderie they established with the Marines - and ex-Marines - they play with and get to know on their trips to Camp Lejeune. They enjoy this tournament, plain and simple, and that's why about 90 percent of the teams return year in and year out.

"The Marine Corps and military are important to me," Conley said. "My dad's a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army so I've always had great respect for what the armed services do, and they just treat us so well at Camp Lejeune."

Oglethorpe's Colin Chapman seconded that viewpoint.

"I love this tournament. I love playing with the Marines," said Chapman, who beat Methodist's Tom Chapman on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to capture medalist honors and a bronze eagle trophy. "I made great friends with the one I played with.

"All the Marines that play with the Oglethorpe players year in and year out are jus great guys. I enjoy getting to meet them. I heard about this tournament as soon as I got to Oglethorpe about how much fun it is. So I was glad I qualified to play in it and glad I played well."

Rick Scoppe can be contacted by calling 353-1171, ext. 8471, or e-mail at rscoppe@freedomenc.com.