COLLEGE GOLF: Odessa College golf team in search of 10th title

The wait is nearly over for the Odessa College golf team in its quest for a 10th national title and its first since 2017.

The Wranglers will tee it up at the 2021 NJCAA Division I National Championship Monday through Thursday at The Rawls Course in Lubbock.

Odessa College finished in fourth the last time the national championship was held in Lubbock in 2018. The Wranglers also finished tied for ninth in its last appearance in Melbourne, Fla., in 2019.

“We’re all excited and anxious and looking forward to the moment,” head coach Paul Chavez said. “The great thing is that our kids are playing really well and are peaking at the right time.”

The Wranglers put together one of their best performances of the season on April 26-27 at the NJCAA District 2 Championship in Willow Park.

Odessa College led wire-to-wire as a team to take the title with Permian graduate Will Adams leading the way as the individual winner of the tournament.

Adams said that it felt good to get the job done after a number of close calls earlier in the semester.

“What separated that tournament from the others was that I really just stayed focused,” Adams said. “I knew that if I just kept making birdies that I would just give myself a chance.”

The Wranglers will bring a team of six golfers that includes Adams, Sangha Park, Marcelo Garza, Jaden Chavez, Jose Dibildox and Jeff Lebeau.

For Chavez, he’s anxious to get back out there and compete after not being able to do so last year because of COVID-19.

“We had to take a year off of tournament golf and so to come out this semester and put yourself in a good position to win a national championship, you can’t really ask for much more than that,” Chavez said. “Personally, I’m pretty motivated because last year I felt like we had a good chance and we didn’t get to play.”

Odessa College golfer Jaden Chavez hits out of a bunker during a practice Friday at Odessa Country Club. (Tony Venegas|Odessa American)

The Wranglers were scheduled to host the 2020 national tournament before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down.

Odessa College now will host the 2022 tournament at Odessa Country Club.

Another potential advantage that the Wranglers may have is the familiarity of the championship course.

Odessa College has already played the host course twice in the spring, winning the LCU Chap Classic in March and most at the NJCAA Southwest Championship April 12-13.

“We still have to go out there and play and put up the good scores,” Paul Chavez said. “It helps but ultimately we just have to play our best.”

Odessa College has had to battle through a little bit of everything in terms of weather conditions in different tournaments and Chavez added that it’s helped them become battle-tested as a team.

Both Adams and Jaden Chavez said that the biggest keys for them will be to stay within themselves and not try to force the issue. The tournament is structured differently compared to others they’ve played throughout the season with 18 holes over four days as opposed to a two-day sprint with 36 holes on the first day.

“It’s a four-day tournament,” Adams said. “I’m really going to focus on just staying patient out there and not letting one hole or 18 holes define the tournament.”

Chavez added: “I just have to trust my game and my preparation. I just have to go out there with a game plan, stick to it and just try to execute everything right.”

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