Editor’s Note: Above image provided by the UMHB Athletics Department
BELTON, Texas- For head coach Jordan Cox and his UMHB men’s golf team, this spring season brings with it many unknowns. But one thing is clear: The Crusaders aren’t playing for second place.
Ranked No. 2 in the nation by the end of the fall and No. 8 in the preseason poll by Bushnell/Golfweek, UMHB continues to ascend in world of division three golf, but is not done yet, as head coach Jordan Cox has noted.
“All the guys, we kind of laugh and say that [No. 2 ranking] is great, but that’s not where we want to be,” said Cox with a chuckle. “We want to be No. 1, we want to win, and we want to represent our university the best way we know how. “
Entering this spring, UMHB was picked to win the ASC Conference Championship by the league’s head coaches, and for good reason. The Cru completed a four tournament swing through the fall, taking first place at three of them, and finishing second to Hardin-Simmons by just three strokes at the ASC Championship Preview.
That fall success was in part due to the improvement of his squad, players such as William Sammons and Kaden Treybig, who both received spots on the ASC Watch List for this spring.
With a team that boasts just one senior in Ryan Russell, Cox has been pleased with the way Treybig has stepped up. The junior from Bellville, Texas, has made great strides throughout the past year.
“Kaden has transformed himself,” said Cox. “That guy has transformed himself into a physical specimen. He has really taken our strength and conditioning program on, and gotten stronger, and improved his swing speed. He’s really blossomed, not just as a player but as a young man, as a leader, and an encourager on our team.”
Another player that Cox saw make several strides in the fall was sophomore Luis Legarreta Jr., who is in his second season at UMHB, but like all of Cox’s players, got an extra year of eligibility after Covid canceled the spring season in 2020.
“Luis is super talented, and is always striving to be the very best that he can be,” said Cox.
Part of that development across the entire team comes from the “team-first” atmosphere that is brought to an individual sport.
“When you look at it on its face, Golf is a pretty selfish sport,” said Cox. “It’s kind of an individual deal that we’ve turned into a team sport, which I love, and so does everybody else on our squad. They have to challenge each other and make each other better. That’s what we’ve done. I go out and actively recruit guys that want to be a part of all those things.
That level of excellence does not just apply to the golf course in Cox’s program. Success academically is something the entire team strives for as well. In the fall semester, the Cru finished with the highest GPA of any team on campus.
“At our place, as competitive as it is with all the programs we have, we were really proud of that,” said Cox of the high team GPA. “It’s not just on the golf course that they’re pursuing those things.”
One element that is not often mentioned is the fact that golfers have to compete against each other in order to secure their place in the next tournament. With the level of talent on this UMHB squad, these qualifying-type tournaments are often more challenging than the tournament itself according to some of Cox’s players.
“We have to compete against each other to get into the lineup to compete in a tournament,” said Cox. “They know if they’ve beaten their teammates, that’s probably as hard as the tournament is going to be. They know if they’ve beaten their teammates, they’ve done something. One of the guys said, ‘The qualifying tournaments are harder than the actual tournaments’. There’s really some truth in that.”
The Cru will open an eight tournament spring slate on January 27 with a dual match against UT Dallas in Whitney, Texas. The Comets enter the season ranked No 5 in the ASC Preseason Poll, and it will be the first of three tournaments UMHB competes in this fall that are hosted by UT Dallas. Following a second dual match against the Comets scheduled for February 3, the Cru will head to San Antonio twice, for the Alamo City Championship February 8-9, and the San Antonio Shootout February 22-23. The Schreiner Spring Shootout will open the month of March for UMHB, set for March 8-9. The Texas Cup and West Regional Invitational then lead up to the big one, the ASC Championship. Howard Payne will host this year’s conference tournament, as the event, set for April 25-27, will take place in Brownwood.