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Penn College Golfers on Fantastic Roll; Win Streak at Near-Record Length

If its first outing of the season is any indication, Pennsylvania College of Technology golfers are in for another excellent campaign.

The Wildcats decisively beat three other teams and extended their five-season win streak to 133-0 in a match last week that typified the program that Chet Schuman has developed in his eight seasons as coach: talented golfers many of them from the immediate area and all of whom play simply for the love of the game performing up to their ability with the hearts of the champions they are.

In a Penn State University Athletic Conference outing at the prestigious Nemacolin Woodlands Resort Pete Dye-designed Mystic Rock Golf Course in Farmington, Penn College’s low four golfers scored a 311 35 strokes better than runner-up Penn State Mont Alto.

Leading the way individually for the Wildcats was senior Shaun McQuay, of Watsontown, who shot the best round of his collegiate career, a 2-under-par 70.

Also for Penn College, sophomore Matt Winder, of Montgomery, fired a 77; junior Ryan Nornhold, of Enola, an 80; freshman Doug Wagner, of Huntington Mills, an 84; freshman Dean Bell, of Schwenksville, an 85; and freshman Eric Schall, of Jersey Shore, an 87. They all finished among the top eight of the 27 competing.

The key to such a terrific start on one of the most difficult courses in the state Mystic Rock is ranked among the Top 25 Resort Courses in the country by Golf Digest and has played host to a PGA Tour event was getting in a practice round a day before the tournament thanks to Schuman’s efforts, the players said.

“I hit a lot of shots during the practice round and said there is no way that I’m going to be hitting (like that) in the regular match. (In the match) I used a lot of irons off the tee instead of a driver. You had to place the ball and keep it in the fairway. That’s the whole point of having a practice round. You learn the course,” McQuay said.

As important as McQuay’s round was, both personally and to the team, the effort by Schall was just as impressive, according to the coach.

“I came up to Schall on hole three and he had a tissue drenched in blood (from an unexplained nosebleed). He didn’t shoot a good front nine, but he finished the front nine and gutted out the back nine in 3 over par. That’s playing with heart. He came in in the 80s. You can’t do that without character and heart,” Schuman said.

Penn College’s success on the links began building late in the 2002 season. Teamwise, Penn College went 20-10 that fall, but freshmen Matt Haile of Sunbury finished second and Christian Scheller of Moscow placed fourth at the end-of-the-season championships.

The following year, Haile became the college’s first individual conference champion since 1982 and led Penn College to its first state championship, capping a 45-0 season.

Momentum continued in 2004 as the team went 35-0 and claimed two conference championships. This time, it was Brandon Smith, a sophomore from Wellsboro, who medaled to become the college’s second-straight individual titlist. The streak was 80-0.

Success carried on in 2005 with the Wildcats going 20-0 in team competition and winning yet another conference crown. Individually, it was twice as sweet as Haile and McQuay tied at the end of regulation for top honors at the championships, then McQuay prevailed on the first playoff hole to become the medalist. The streak reached 100-0.

Last fall saw Penn College go 30-0, extending its win string to 130-0, capture its fourth-straight conference team championship and have two players, freshmen Winder and T.C. Reynolds, share conference medalist honors in a rain-shortened finale.

The keys to the team’s success?

“Having a lot of good players on the team and a great coach. You can’t say enough about our coach and our players, how they like to play,” said McQuay, who also is a two-time men’s club champ at White Deer Golf Complex.

“The record had started before I came here,” McQuay continued, “and one of the seniors that was here said ‘I don’t want to start losing now.’ I was a freshman coming in and I was kind of scared. I didn’t want to be the one that lost, and I think that set the mentality for me. I still have that mentality. I don’t want to be the reason we would lose, and that just keeps me going and driving to shoot lower and lower.”

The choice of coming to Penn College was simple for both McQuay and Winder.

“I knew Penn College had a golf team and I wanted to stay close to home,” Winder said, also citing a longtime friendship with Schuman.

McQuay spent two years at Penn State’s main campus studying professional golf, but didn’t find the teaching aspect of it to his liking. He was told he couldn’t join the Nittany Lion golf team as a walk-on, so Penn College was his first choice.

“My first priority was taking something I wanted. I came here to take aircraft maintenance and found out they had a great golf team,” McQuay said.

Unlike higher-division collegiate programs where scholarships are offered, Penn College student-athletes must be extra diligent to maintain their grades … and their golf game.

“These are working kids who come to college to get an education. But it’s not like they go to class and then they go to play golf,” Schuman said.”(For most, it’s work, class, golf). These kids give up a lot to golf. “¦ And they give back to the community at the same time.”

“Practice, practice, practice. You have to practice to be good at this game. It is hard between school and matches because you have to stay up on school to make sure you play in matches. It’s tough some times,” Winder said.

“It’s really difficult. I work, I do school, I practice. “¦ Today I went into work at Wegmans and worked 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., went to classes the rest of the day and then I concentrate the rest of my time on studying and practicing (golf). You work your schedule as best you can,” said Charlie Peterson, a freshman from Cogan Station.

“Our practice, on an average, is three hours a day. That’s 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., so they’re getting home at 7:30. Their days are long,” Schuman said.

Addressing McQuay’s situation specifically, Schuman said, “Aircraft aviation curriculum is governed by FAA regulations, which means he has to be in class so many hours. He can’t miss. When we got the nod that Shaun was coming here, we did a lot of prep work with his faculty to allow him to play golf and go to school.”

With the talent that the Wildcats have had the last few years, their toughest competition often has come from within their own ranks.

“Matt Winder and I always have competition against each other to see who is going to win,” McQuay said. “In 2005 when we were at states, I ended up winning, but it was through a playoff with one of my teammates (Haile). It was kind of hard to play against one of your own teammates and want to win.

“When you have a close-knit group of guys who want to play, it’s a lot of fun and you come together as a team a lot more.”

“You think that you’re not playing other schools, you’re playing against your teammates to get the low round; it makes it much more interesting,” Winder added.

“Golf is usually an individual sport, but, in this case, it’s a team sport because you need to have four really low rounds to win the team match. When you’re not just playing against one person, you’re playing against each other,” Bell said.

The all-time national collegiate win streak of 165 is held by the men’s squash team from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., from 1998 to present. Although Penn College golfers don’t talk much about their own streak, continuing the run as long as they can is on their minds.

“I try to focus on the day. You need to worry about your own game, don’t worry about what happened a couple of weeks ago. It’s nice to know that we’ve done that (133-0), but you don’t think about it while you’re on the course,” Winder said.

“It’s one thing you don’t think about. There are a million other things during the match that you think about; where should I place the ball, where should I hit to, what’s the safest shot, what’s the smartest thing. It (the record) just doesn’t enter your mind,” Peterson said.

“I expect to play well and I know everybody else on the team is going to be playing well, so we should keep the streak going,” Bell said.

“The record is nice, but every match you don’t think about it. Personally, I go out and want to win myself and do well for the team. Even if we had a losing record, it wouldn’t matter. All I’d be concerned about is that day when we were playing,” McQuay said.

“I think about the record a lot. I love to win. I always wanted to win. You go out to play and it helps to have a winning record. It’s fun to think about and it’s fun to know. But you can’t think about it during a round. You’ve got to try and keep it off your mind so that, if you have a bad hole and think we might not win today, it can ruin your whole round,” Schall said.

“I don’t think about the record. I want these kids to do well. But the record is dang nice,” Schuman said.

“What bothers me is when people say, ‘but who do you play?’ We play our competition. We played up last year and we won,” the coach said.

“We are the largest school (numbers-wise) in the league, but if (being big is all it took) then every team we had at Penn College would be undefeated. They aren’t. We are. I think it’s a tribute to the young men who have played the sport over the years. They come in to win,” Schuman continued.

“Mr. Schall said it. That’s why he wouldn’t drop out (when his nose bled). He wasn’t going to be the one who was going to cost us the possibility of losing. Nobody wants that. You’ve got to focus on your game and do well.”

Off to a good start, Penn College will be challenged again Wednesday when it hosts a multiteam PSUAC event at White Deer.

“As I tell these young men when they enter a golf course, we can shake everybody’s hand and be friendly, but trust me, there are nine-10 other schools who want to say that they dropped us,” Schuman said.

“If everybody goes out and beats their foursome, we’re going to win. A lot of people want to be the school that knocks us off. We win professionally and, when the time comes and we lose, we accept it and we walk off the course and we accept it professionally, because there was a time when we didn’t have these kinds of players and we took a drubbing,” the coach said.

“A school our size, being a technical school, you don’t think of them for golf. I think that’s unique and a tribute to the college and the men who are coming here for an education and to play golf.

“As we say, techies don’t lose to preps. We want to win, and we’re the techs and we’re proud of it,” Schuman added.

(A complete roster and season schedule are available on the college’s Athletics Web site.)

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