By Paul Ce
The Grand Rapids Community College golf team finished 14th in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Championship Tournament. They were led by sophomore Nick Ward who finished with a score of 82 and freshman Cooper Bell who had 77, which was the Raider’s best score of the tournament.
At the beginning of the tournament the team got off to a shaky start and didn’t play at the level they knew they could.
“It was tough at the beginning,” Bell said. “We were getting used to the course and it was tough because we had a delay every single day, and it threw us off our game because the team was ready to just go out and play right away.”
It seemed they dealt with a lot of challenges this week, especially since the weather did not make for prime golfing conditions. It was wet, the ground was soft, and the air was heavy like hot soup.
Coach John Forton noted, “The greens were like lightning.”
The weather led to less than ideal conditions for all of the teams, but Bell stated, “The weather was a huge factor, but we were used to it. It was worse for the teams coming from the south who are used to playing in 70 degree weather.”
The team rallied together as the tournament came to a close though as they started to become stronger as other teams winded down.
“It showed we didn’t cash it in,” Forton said. “…we came in the best we can.”
Overall, Bell tied for 41st, Ward tied for 46th, sophomore Ryan Skislak tied for 83rd, freshman Graham Flucher tied for 94th, and freshman Logan Holtkamp tied for 111st.
It was also a special week for Bell as he was named to the NJCAA Division II PING All-Region team for the Central Region by the Golf Coaches Association of America.
“It was huge part of my freshman year for me to win it,” Bell said. “When they announced my name at the awards banquet, it was awesome to hear my name. It was a dream come true.”
Forton wasn’t surprised by Bell’s accomplishment.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Forton said. “I knew he would be something special for the Raiders. He’s been a good inspiration for the team.”