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Austin grad helps UNA take aim at national title
Gourgeot, Lions’ golf team head to NCAA Division II tournament

By Ashley Hargrove
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

For Austin High graduate Matt Gourgeot, winning a national championship is something he has dreamed of since arriving at North Alabama to play on the golf team.

Since UNA will compete in the NCAA Division II golf championships Tuesday through Friday in Allendale, Mich., Gourgeot may not have to wait much longer.

“We have a very prideful golf team,” said Gourgeot, a junior who was The Daily’s boys golfer of the year in 2004. “This year, we’re going in with a good feeling that we can win this thing. It’s all just a matter of being patient and getting off to a good start.”

UNA is making its fifth appearance in seven years, with a fourth-place finish in 2002 being the Lions’ best.

UNA enters the championships as the winner of the South Regional and the third-ranked team in Division II. It’s one of five regionals, and the winner of each advances. Five at-large teams also advance, which puts 10 teams in Michigan this week.

At the South Regional, Gourgeot shot 73-74-75—222 to tie for 15th individually.

“UNA has never won a national championship in golf,” Gourgeot said. “I would love to bring one back to Florence. This is the biggest tournament a golf team can play in. It would be huge if we won it.”

According to Gourgeot, a solid start in the opening round is the key to a good finish, something UNA has done well this season.

In six spring tournaments leading to the super regionals, UNA won two tournaments, finished runner-up twice and placed fourth and fifth once each. In each instance, the Lions started strong.

“We’ve kind of gotten use to playing with a lead,” Gourgeot said. “We’ve had a hot spring, and our No. 3 ranking in the nation proves it. I think if we play like we’re all capable of, then we shouldn’t have a problem.

“You can’t win it in the first round, but you can definitely lose it,” Gourgeot said.

Gourgeot said the difference between a good golf team and great team is experience. And experience is something the Lions are blessed with this year.

Of UNA’s five starters, four competed in last year’s national championship. With that much experience returning from last year’s team, Gourgeot said he believes the Lions have more than an outside shot.

“Our lowest score at regionals was 75,” Gourgeot said. “When you’ve got five guys playing that well and got four of five guys returning, it’s special. We’re very competitive against each other. Nobody wants to lose. Everyone wants to win individually.”

Gourgeot isn’t the only Morgan County native who will be competing in Michigan this week. Gourgeot is joined by former Falkville standout Jonathan Henderson in the UNA men’s golf lineup.

Henderson was The Daily’s boys golfer of the year in 2000 before transferring to UMS-Wright, where he graduated.

“Jonathan is a little older than me but it definitely makes playing a lot easier when you have someone who has more playing experience,” Gourgeot said. “We’re at the golf course every day together. That always makes for some fun.”

Gourgeot is in his first year at UNA after spending two years at Northwest-Shoals. He said he had a chance to join the golf team at Alabama but would have had to redshirt his first year.

“I was a little disappointed in going there (to Northwest-Shoals) at first, but after all of the success I had, I realized I made the right decision to go ahead and get playing experience instead of sitting out a year,” Gourgeot said. “My coach there really helped me with how I needed to be mentally.”

Gourgeot transferred to UNA after finishing out his eligibility at Shoals.

As for this summer, Gourgeot said he plans on playing plenty of golf.

“I’m playing in the State Amateur in Montgomery in a few weeks and I’ll be back in Decatur to play in the Spirit of America tournament,”he said. “I plan on playing in a couple of individual tournaments as well.

“Summer is my favorite time to play because I don’t have to worry about school. Gourgeot said. “I tend to play better in the summer and it helps me get prepared for our fall season. I plan on working on a few things, but nothing major.”

UNA in NCAA golf tournament

  • What:North Alabama will play in the NCAA Division II men’s golf championships Tuesday through Friday in Allendale, Mich.

  • Accomplishments:UNA has won the South Regional title, which is the third for the Lions. UNAwon titles in 2002 and ’03.

  • NCAA trips:This is UNA’s seventh trip to the Division II championships since 1996. UNA finished 13th in 1996, 14th in 2000, fourth in 2002, sixth in 2003, 13th in 2004 and 14th in 2006.

    Ashley Hargrove

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