The University of the Cumberlands (UC) golf programs has continued to become even more dominant in the last few years in the NAIA. The men's team will begin the 2012 spring season at #7 in the NAIA while the women's team is not far behind at #12 in the NAIA. Each team member has worked extremely hard to have their team ranked so high, but one player for each team has continued to compete at a level above the rest.
Patriots Laura Beth Harris (Glasgow, KY) and Aaron Watkins (Harlan, KY) had stellar fall seasons that some players would dream of having in a collegiate career. Both Patriots came away with a chunk of wins, team awards, and all-tournament teams leading the way for the Patriots into the spring.
Harris commented, "From an individual stand point I am really pleased with how the fall season went. It was by far my best semester of golf here at Cumberland and some of my best golf in general. I felt like I really grew as a golfer after my freshman and sophomore year and all the experience I had really helped me to excel this semester on the course. I had a great mind set going into the semester which I feel like that was the strength of my game. This semester I always found the positive out of the situation, I didn't get down on myself, and I really focused more on staying in the moment rather than getting ahead of myself. Walking away from a great fall season I feel content but never satisfied. I am very excited for my remaining semesters as a Patriot golfer."
Harris, a junior this season, earned three victories in the fall including a 2 stroke win at the Bill Sergent Invitational (team finished 1st), a 4 stroke win at the MSC Fall Tournament (team finished 2nd), and an 8 stroke win at the St. Catharine Invite (team finished 1st). The other two tournaments Laura Beth finished in the top 10 in individuals play as well. She finished her fall season averaging 76.8 strokes per round. Harris also earned a spot in the school's history books with a school record first round score of 68 (-5) at the St. Catharine Invite. Laura Beth's play help lead her team to 3 team victories in the 2011 fall season.
"Being ranked 12thin the nation which is the highest in school history is a great reflection of a wonderful fall season that we had," said Harris. "I feel like this was the best semester as a team that I have witnessed here at Cumberland and all the hard work on and off the course has really paid off so far. We all gave 110% and we know what to focus on during the off season to improve for the spring semester."
Head Coach Chris Kraftick commented, "I can't say enough about how well Laura Beth has played thus far. Even dating back to last spring she has been playing tremendously. Her confidence and maturity has really been the key to our team success as of late."
The men have been led this season by senior Aaron Watkins. The Harlan, KY native had some outstanding play in the fall helping lead his team to 4 tournament victories including their 9thstraight NAIA regular season tournament victory. Watkins picked up two wins of his own this fall including a 1 stroke win at the Bill Sergent Invitational (team finished 1st) and a 3 stroke victory at the Southern Wesleyan University Invitational (team finished 1st). Aaron finished in the top 5 in the other three tournaments of the fall season, being behind the leader 5 strokes or less in each tournament. Watkins round average in the fall was 71.8.
Watkins commented, "I worked much harder this past summer than I ever have on getting my body physically ready as well as on my golf game as a whole getting it ready for the season. My hard work paid off for us and I'm glad I could do my part in helping our team to keep winning like we have. I feel like our ranking is well deserved but at the same time rankings don't mean anything unless you can go out and prove you belong there. I think we have a lot of room to improve and can continue to move up in the NAIA poll."
Coach Kraftick stated, "Aaron has established himself as one of the top players in the country. He has dedicated himself to becoming a professional when he graduates and his work ethic and leadership has been tremendous this season. He has a bright future ahead of him."
Harris and Watkins are sure to make another great viewing in their 2011-2012 spring seasons as they both begin their season on March 5that the Rome New Tribune Invite in Rome, GA.
For more information on the Patriot Golf programs as well as other Patriot athletics, please visit www.cumberlandspatriots.com.