Talented, deep Chaps Squad takes aim at national title

Not many NJCAA men’s golf programs can be confident about their chances of winning a national championship after having lost their best player for the year.

But as No. 1-ranked Midland College has shown, it is still a deep and talented group without the injured Gregor Graham.

The Chaparrals will be seeking their fifth national championship in their storied history when they play in the NJCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship at Odessa Country Club this week. The first of four rounds begins on Tuesday morning.

The Chaps go into the tournament feeling good about themselves after having won the Southwest Junior College Championship tournament title and the District 2 Championship tournament title to also wrap up another Western Junior College Athletic Conference crown by 15 strokes over Rival Odessa College.

“Our district is usually the deepest in the country and we beat a bunch of good teams in the last two tournaments in a row,” MC Coach Walt Williams said. “Obviously we’re going to miss Gregor. He played number one for us for most of the year and won three times. He’s No. 2 in the country, so obviously that hurts, but we’ve played pretty well without him. We were really deep this year and we have a really strong team from top to bottom. ”

Graham was the only freshman to regularly play in the top five but an Achilles heel injury cut his season short.

In his absence, several golfers have stepped up, in particular returning NJCAA All-Americans Samual McKenzie and JT Pittman. The national tournament team also includes sophomores Adam Coull, Angel Guerra, Bladen Samaniego and alternate Aston Castillo.

“Gregor was a major part of our team for most of the season, but the last couple of events, we had to play without him and it hasn’t changed the results that we’ve had this year,” said McKenzie, a sophomore from South Africa. “We’ve still been able to play well enough to win tournaments and compete at a very high level. It’s comforting going into nationals. Since we’re all leaving, it would be an awesome experience to win it and be a part of the national Championship team. The most important thing for me as a player is to enjoy our last time together, play for each other and give it all we’ve got. ”

Pittman, a sophomore from Monahans, said winning the last two tournaments should help the team’s confidence.

“Everybody is hitting their stride when they needed to,” Pittman said. “Knowing that if one plays mediocre, another guy, whether it’s the No. 2, 3, 4 or 5 man, can pick it up, gives us a lot of confidence.

“It hurts not to have someone like Gregor, but I believe everyone has stepped up. We played very well in our last round. We shot 25-under and I think that showed a lot. ”

Coull, who is from Sydney, Australia, said each golfer is ultra-competitive and that has helped the team have success.

“Everyone has the dedication to get better,” Coull said. “We all want the best for each other, but at the end of the day, we’re all trying to be as good as we can. We’re also very close as a team. I think that helps on the course as well. ”

Guerra, who is from Monterrey, Mexico, said the bond that the Chaps have is special.

“I’ve been in golf academies, and in the last two years here at Midland College, how we interact with each other is something I’ve never seen before,” Guerra said. “It’s a Brotherhood on the golf course and off the golf course.”

All of these Chaps also got to experience last year’s national tournament in Lubbock, where they placed third. That experience along with a desire to do better than last year should help drive these Chaps.

“We came up a bit short last year and it left a very bad taste in our mouths,” said Samaniego, who is from Lubbock. “We are ready to get it done. We’re ready to play, that’s for sure. We’re always together and we have great communication and Chemistry together. We know how we play and know what it takes to get it done. ”

The Chaps said the keys to success this week will be to stay focused and treat the tournament just like any other.

“I don’t think we have to do anything crazy to win,” Pittman said. “As long as we stay patient and play what the golf course gives us, we’ll be fine.”

Added McKenzie: “I’ve had the Privilege of spending time with these guys for the last year and a half and I got to know each and every one of them really well. There’s no doubt in my mind that if we stick together and work as a team, we’ll get the trophy at the end of the week. ”

Williams said there are at least eight teams that could legitimately win the title.

“I don’t think we’ll run away with it, but I do think we’ll be in the heat of it,” Williams said. “With Gregor, we might have run away with it, but I expect a very good contest with a lot of competitive teams and I think we’ll have a good of a shot as any of them if we play well.”

Follow Oscar on Twitter: @OLeRoy_MRT


Samual McKenzie

Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa

Class: Sophomore

Player’s quote: “I struggled the first half of the semester. My results haven’t been that bad and I didn’t play as well as I wanted to. The last few tournaments I have found something in my game. I started to think more differently and in the last tournament I started to play more strategic in my game. The biggest thing for me is I stopped thinking about the results and more about hitting one shot at a time and putting the ball in the right place on the greens. ”

Notables: McKenzie has signed to play at Sam Houston State next year. … He is the No. 4-ranked player in NJCAA Division I by Golfstat with an adjusted scoring average of 71.05. … He has won four individual titles at Midland College and finished in a three-way tie for first at the District 2 Tournament with a 72-63–135

JT Pittman

Hometown: Monahans

Class: Sophomore

Player’s quote: “I feel pretty confident. I played some good rounds and I played some mediocre rounds in the last two tournaments. I think it’s all there, it’s whether or not I piece it together at the right time, but I feel I’m capable of doing that. ”

Notables: Pittman has signed to play at Wichita State University next year. … He is the No. 6-ranked player by Golfstat with a 71.97 scoring average. … He finished in a tie for seventh at the District 2 Tournament with a 74-65—139. … Pittman began the year at UNLV but transferred back to MC at the semester break as he still had a year of Eligibility left.

Adam Coull

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Class: Sophomore

Player’s quote: “I feel my game is pretty good. I had some good tournaments this semester and I’ve had some not-so-good performances, but I think it’s trending in the right direction and I feel pretty confident going into the nationals. ”

Notables: Coull has signed to play at the University of Memphis next year. … He is ranked No. 10 by Golfstat with an average of 72.36. … Coull has one medalist title and finished fifth at the National Preview Tournament in the fall.

Angel Guerra

Hometown: Monterrey, Mexico

Class: Sophomore

Player’s quote: “Over the semester, I’ve been playing really mediocre, and in the last round in Brownwood (District 2 Championship) I played really well, so I think it’s peaking at the right time.”

Notables: Guerra has signed to play at the University of Incarnate Word next year. … Guerra is coming off in fifth place in the NJCAA Region V / District 2 Championship with a 72-65-137. .. He is ranked 16th by Golfstat with a 72.34 scoring average.

Bladen Samaniego

Hometown: Lubbock

Class: Sophomore

Player’s quote: “I feel good about my game. I had a rough start this semester, but it’s coming along really well. ”

Notables: Samaniego has signed to play at Tarleton State University next year. … He is ranked No. 25 by Golfstat with a 72.63 scoring average. … He shot a 72-72—144 in the District 2 Championship. … He finished tied for third at the National Preview Tournament at OCC in November with a 72-71-69—212.

Aston Castillo

Hometown: Lubbock

Class: Sophomore

Player’s quote: “I’m feeling pretty confident. My game has been polished up and I can’t wait to get out there and show them what we can do. We all have this chip on our shoulder from last year. We were just a young team that lacked experience. This year we’re a team full of experience and talent. ”

Notables: Castillo will join teammate Pittman at Wichita State University next year. … He is ranked No. 28 by Golftstat with a 73.07 scoring average. … He is coming off a 69-75-144 showing at the District 2 Championship. … He will be the alternate on the team during the national tournament.


This is the 34th consecutive year Midland College has qualified for the NJCAA Men’s Golf Championship Tournament. No tournament was held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Here is the history of how the Chaparrals placed with the first team of all-Americans in parentheses.

Year Finish

1988 12th

1989 6th

1990 3rd (Dean Robertson)

1991 2nd (Darren Eckhardt, Andrew Coltart)

1992 Champion (Steve Armstrong, Grant Thompson)

1993 3rd

1994 2nd (Chad Campbell)

1995 Champion (Derrick Pursley, Graham Davidson)

1996 4th (Davidson)

1997 6th

1998 3rd

1999 4th

2000 2nd (Ernie Rose)

2001 6th

2002 5th

2003 4th

2004 5th

2005 3rd

2006 Champion (Kevin Carrigan, Nils Bjorling)

2007 2nd (Leroux Ferreira)

2008 Champion (David Thomas, Medalist Champion; Patrick Solberg)

2009 Third (Tommy Sikes, Medalist Champion)

2010 Tied for 11th

2011 4th

2012 6th

2013 9th

2014 6th (David Wicks)

2015 16th (David Wicks)

2016 3rd

2017 4th (Stefan Cronje)

2018 3rd (Callum Bruce, Alex Motes)

2019 3rd (Callum Bruce, George Saunders)

2021 3rd (JT Pittman)

Other Midland College all-American selections

Second team – Samual McKenzie (2021), Michael Salazar (2018, 2017), Ben Murray (2016), Tyson Turnbow (2012), Neil Gowan (2011) Van Snyman (2007, 2006), Hamilton Wheeler (2003), Andrew Lanahan (2003), Lee Rhind (2001), Kenneth Ferrie (1999, 1998), Derrick Pursley (1996), Euan Little (1995), Jason Brooks (1994), Stephen Dundas (1993), Shawn Savage (1993), Mark Kochan (1990), Dean Robertson (1989)

Third team – Lucas McCubbin (2016), Heinrich Frylinck (2009), JR Reyes (2001), James Clive (1996), Jason Garduno (1995)

Honorable mention – Max Charles (2019), Sean Lawrie (2012), Luke Richardson (2011), Kevin Carrigan (2007), Greg Bowden (2005), Lane Branum (2003), Kevin Hofer (2000), Russell Wrentz (2000) , JC Hernandez (1992), Mike Johnson (1989)

Runners-up – Wicks (2014), Rose (2000), Pursley (1995), Thompson (1992), Coltart (1991) and Robertson (1990)

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