AACC golfers set for nationals

May 16, 1994|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Sun Staff Writer

In a season where the honors keep rolling in, Anne Arundel Community College golf coach Cal Peterson is relieved that his prediction came true. He expected the Pioneers to challenge for at least a piece of the national championship, and last week's win in the Region XX tournament gave them a chance to do just that.

"Fortunately, I didn't put my foot in my mouth," he said.

Kris Niemi, Matt Tengwall, Brian Jones, Matt Hoffman and Christian Smith made sure their coach didn't wind up in an awkward position, finishing in the top six and assuring the Pioneers of a berth in the nationals next month in Greensboro, N.C. Approximately 40 teams will be there for the four-day, 72-hole event.

Back on April 4, soon after the Pioneers had won their first match, Peterson said, "We're going to have a good one this year. I really think this may be the best team we've ever had here."

Anne Arundel (8-2) took another step toward validating Peterson's expectations last week at Rocky Point Golf Course in Essex, winning the region's Division III title and the Maryland JuCo championship by placing first among 11 teams with a two-day total of 639.

"Don Ross, who I coached with in football for a few years, says there's a fine line between potential and performance," said Peterson, in his 24th season at Anne Arundel. "I knew they had potential, but they had to put it together and perform. This is a tribute to each and every one of those players. They believed in themselves."

Niemi, the Pioneers' No. 2 golfer who led Arundel High to two straight state championships, defeated No. 1 Tengwall in sudden death. Jones, who had been an alternate until midway through the season, placed two strokes behind them. Hoffman took fourth place, and Christian Smith was sixth.

"Niemi had probably been my most consistent player this season," Peterson said. "That's difficult to say, though, because they all shot consistently during the year, except for one match [a loss to Montgomery-Rockville three weeks before the regions]. Christian's scores have been coming down each match. I think he'll do very well at the nationals, too."

The Pioneers hadn't won a state or region title since 1984, but they beat the next closest team, Frederick, by 19 strokes. They never have taken first in the nationals.

Could this be the year?

"The course is pretty tough. Everybody knows that. But if we all playwell, I think we can do it. The team is really starting to come together," Niemi said.

Peterson said: "We beat Montgomery-Rockville, the third-place team in our division, by 41 strokes. But there won't be that type of separation in the nationals. There may be five or six strokes separating the top six."

After the first day of the regions, Anne Arundel was leading Division II Charles by 12 strokes and had a bigger lead over the Division III competition. "But our goal was to prove we were the best team in this region, Division II or III," Peterson said. "We had a comfortable lead, but I've seen it happen before where a team sort of cruises the next day and loses it. We didn't lose that edge."

Instead, they gained another award, the Mason-Dixon Trophy, given to the team that contributes the most scorers among the top seven. "It's an informal thing," Peterson said.

"I told the players it's not so much how people judge you at your failures, but how they judge you on your success. There are times we've gone to the regionals and come away with nothing, and you're envious, always hopeful you'll have something. These guys are very humble in their success."

So is Peterson, who recently was named Coach of the Year for the third time in JuCo and second time in the region.

"I owe it to the players, for sure," he said.

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