CULLMAN — What better way to start the season than by bringing some of the best teams in the country to your own backyard?
That’s the approach golf coach Dan York is taking heading into Monday and Tuesday’s Wallace State Fall Invitational, which will feature four squads that finished in the top 20 at last year’s 2012 NJCAA Division I national championship in Newton, Kan.
In addition to the two teams the Lions are fielding — their ‘A’ group finished tied for 18th at nationals — York said golfers from Meridian Community College (fourth), Brevard Community College (eighth) and Central Alabama (ninth) will be among the nine squads participating in the 54-hole kickoff at the Cullman Golf Course.
“It's the first tournament out of the block every year,” York said of the Invitational. “It starts the season for all of us.”
York, an NJCAA and Cullman County hall of famer, has enjoyed plenty of success in his 25-year tenure at Wallace State, but the Lions haven't won a region and state championship in the same year since they did so four times in a row from 2001-04.
“We've been there,” the coach said. “But about the last three years, we've been down.”
That hasn't meant York hasn't had any talent during that stretch. Conner Godsey, the Lions' No. 1 player last year, won the Alabama Open by seven strokes this past July.
What has the Wallace State most excited about the golfers he'll have on the course this fall, though, is their depth. Four of York's top-five golfers are freshmen.
“I'm excited about this year's team,” he said. “We're looking forward to getting it cranked up.”
Wallace State has 12 men on the golf team, and 11 of them live within an hour and a half of campus, which York said is “tremendous.” The only one who doesn't is Aksel Olsen, an international player from Norway who will start the season as the Lions' No. 1 golfer.
The coach said the rest of his 'A' team for the opening tournament will be as follows: No. 2 Chris Atchley, of Huntsville; No. 3 Jake Miller, of Oneonta; No. 4, Kolby Hamrick, of Haleyville (the only sophomore; and No. 5 Walker Edmonson, of Oneonta.
The tournament will consist of 36 holes on Monday and 18 on Tuesday.
York said playing two rounds on the very first day of the season will immediately put his golfers' offseason conditioning to the test. Players will have a very brief opportunity to scarf down a box lunch and drink after their first 18 holes.
“It's not like they can sit down, rest and enjoy their meal,” the coach said. “They get maybe five or 10 minutes and then get back on the golf course.”
Tee times will begin at 7:20 a.m. on Monday and 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.