GRCC golf team takes fourth at NJCAA Preview

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By Zach Watkins – Sports Editor

The Grand Rapids Community College golf team finished in fourth place with a 624 at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Preview on Oct. 16 and 17.

The Raiders finished nine strokes off first place Kirkwood Community College’s 615.

“We went there with an idea with how we were going to compete with the best teams in the country, and we wanted to get the rounds in at the course where the National Championship will be held,” GRCC coach Bruce VandenBeldt said. “We found out we could play with some of the top teams, and I had a great time at my last tournament.”

VandenBeldt said that despite the inclement weather, his team adapted and played well.

“The wind was crazy,” VandenBeldt said. “There was 25-30 mph winds, so that was crazy and it was cold. We’re used to that though. We always play in that so we embrace it. We’re the ‘up north’ team, so that’s what we’re known for.”

Owens Community College’s Bandit Chaisuk took first place overall, with a one-over-par 145. Nathan Brownlee topped the Raiders’ scorecard with a 154.

“He had a nice tournament,” VandenBeldt said, of Brownlee. “He’s really come on this fall and has done a nice job for us. He and the rest of the team are excited for the spring.”

GRCC’s Devin Capron tied for ninth place at 156, while teammate Brandon Hawkins tied for 13th at 158.

Despite VandenBeldt’s retirement in June, GRCC was unable to find a replacement coach in time for the fall season. A new coach has been hired for the spring, John Forton, a director of golf instruction at Egypt Valley.

“When we concluded there, we didn’t know who the coach was, but then we found out, and that’ll be a perfect fit,“ VandenBeldt said.

“It’s been a dream (coaching GRCC),” he said. “To be able to go to nationals like we did so often, to be a top 10 team in the country, to see kids go on and play at a higher level. It’s been a great run and a good ride. It’s scrapbook time.”

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