COLLEGE GOLF: Monahans’ Pittman working to lead Midland College to national title

Although his team has to make a 24-minute drive to compete in the 2022 NJCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship Tournament, Midland College’s JT Pittman knows his surroundings fairly well.

Before the sophomore started competing for the Chaparrals, he made a name for himself in Monahans.

He had multiple opportunities in high school to get a feel for the Odessa Country Club’s Links Course, where Pittman is trying to lead Midland College to a national title.

Pittman said he had been on the Links Course 10 to 15 times in the past, adding that he appreciated the condition of the greens.

He used the experience to his advantage in the opening round of the tournament Tuesday, shooting a 4-under-par 68 to jump into a tie for first place with Hutchinson Community College’s Ben Partridge.

Going into the competition’s second round Wednesday, Midland College coach Walt Williams said Pittman’s first round showing gave the Chaparrals a chance to stay in the fight against some of the toughest teams in the field.

Midland College was fifth in the team standings after the first day, carding an opening round 291 to finish seven shots behind early leader Hutchinson Community College (284).

“That’s what you want to be the first couple of days, you just want to be within touch where you can catch them, possibly,” Williams said. “[Pittman] did that for us yesterday, hopefully one or two of them does that for us today and keeps us in the heat of the battle.

“We still would like to have a chance to win, we’ve got to stay in touch the first two days to have that chance.”

Pittman’s main focus in the second round was to keep his shots as straight as possible by hitting the middle of the clubface to avoid issues against strong winds.

The second round featured consistently strong wind gusts at the start of Midland College’s pairing at 1:24 p.m., while the first round saw a crosswind begin to pick up later in the day.

“I just try to tell myself, ‘Hit as many good golf shots as you possibly can when it gets windy,’” Pittman said. “The more you hit it in the middle of the clubface, the straighter it goes so I just try to tell myself that.”

In Midland College’s pairing, Pittman has gotten to chance to compete against some of the top junior college golfers in the nation from Central Alabama Community College and Hutchinson.

Before the tournament started, the Chaps were the No. 1 team in the NJCAA’s latest Divsion I rankings, followed by Central Alabama in second and Hutchinson in third.

Pittman believes seeing that competition will help him when he makes the jump to the next step in his playing career.

The Monahans graduate plans on competing at the NCAA Division I level at Wichita State, where he signed to play May 5 along with Midland College teammate Aston Castillo.

“Playing at MC, you play against [Odessa College], New Mexico Junior College, everybody that we play at every event is always good competition,” Pittman said. “I think it was a good step going forward.”

Williams has seen Pittman mature over his time as a Chaparral, noting that the sophomore handles adversity well and doesn’t let a bad hole affect him as much by staying in the moment.

Pittman said it was a good feeling knowing he would be closing out his time in junior college on a course he has familiarity with.

“My family gets to be here to watch so that’s always good, it makes it feel more like home,” Pittman said. “I think it’s a perfect place to close it out.”

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