After Impressive Fall Season, CMS Men's Golf Eager to Get Spring Started

Alex Wrenn is the last holdover from the 2016 NCAA Champion CMS men's golf team, and hopes to lead the Stags back this spring.
Alex Wrenn is the last holdover from the 2016 NCAA Champion CMS men's golf team, and hopes to lead the Stags back this spring.

CLAREMONT, Calif. - As the spring season gets rolling again at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the reminders of last spring's success for the entire athletic department are still evident in the trophy cases. Two teams (women's tennis, women's golf) are defending national champions, one (women's track and field) finished fourth (with three individual champions), one (men's tennis) made its annual trip to the NCAA quarterfinals, and another (women's lacrosse) went into the NCAA Tournament undefeated against Division III teams at .

And that list doesn't include CMS men's golf, which might have as much reason for optimism as anyone this year. 

It's not as if the Stags have had their tee shots flying entirely below the radar. They finished ninth at the NCAA Division III Championships a year ago, and are only three years removed from winning a national title of their own, finishing first at the 2016 NCAAs. 

With all the success from other CMS programs in 2017-18, though, this academic year may have gotten started last September without men's golf at the forefront of "teams to watch" around campus. But the fall season sure changed that in a hurry. 

The Stags came out of the fall ranked No. 2 in the GolfStat computer rankings, behind only Emory, while their team score over three events (totaling six rounds) was an aggregate five-under par. At the two-day Cal State Intercollegiate Tournament hosted by Cal Lutheran on Sept. 17-18, CMS finished at an impressive 13-under par, winning by 14 strokes over Texas-Tyler.

The team then shot a +1 (289) to win by 17 strokes over Chapman in a dual, and capped the spring with a second-place finish in a tough field at +7 (859) in the three-day Embry Riddle Invitational, with three individuals finishing under par and in the top four in the field in some difficult weather conditions, including a pair of freshmen: Alex Yun (-2) and Rishi Bhat (-1).

Senior Alex Wrenn, who was also -1 at Embry Riddle and is the last holdover from the 2016 national championship team (when he tied for the individual title before finishing second in a playoff), was impressed with how his team played in the fall. 

"It was pretty awesome to see," said Wrenn. "Especially with the way two freshmen stepped up. We lost three seniors last year who have been big contributors for a long time and have been really important to the team, but having these freshmen come in and start playing really well right away was awesome."

Another reason for the optimism is that it wasn't the same one or two players who were constantly forcing the scores low. Every week, and sometimes every round, saw a new person step up. Junior Austin Long won the Cal State Intercollegiate with a pair of 68s, sophomore Ken Kong shot a 66 against Chapman, and Wrenn capped off the intra-squad game of "can you top this" with a 64 in the second round of the Embry-Riddle.

"It takes a lot of pressure off of everybody," said Wrenn of his team's depth, "knowing that you can go out there and if some things aren't going your way early. there's some guys behind you who are all capable."

The Embry Riddle Invitational ended on Oct. 9, and the Stags have had to wait patiently for the season to get going again. They will finally be able to get the clubs out for real on Sunday, on the first day of the three-day Coyote Classic, hosted by Cal State San Bernardino, at Oak Valley in Beaumont, California. After concluding that tournament, the Stags will be at Los Serranos on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23-24 for the first of two SCIAC regular season tournaments. 

After seeing so much success in the fall, the team has been anxious to get back out there and start building towards the postseason events coming in April and May. As a senior, Wrenn has been through this waiting game before. 

"It always goes that way in the offseason," he said. "It's kind of a bummer that our fall season is so short, but I think everyone has just been working on their games and getting better. We're all looking forward and gearing up for the spring."

Although the fall may have been a small sample size, the team showed enough potential to be one of the ones battling it out near the top of the team leaderboards at the NCAA Championships, which begin on May 14 in Nicholasville, Kentucky. For Wrenn, a strong performance there would give him the chance to perhaps bookend his career with a second national title, which he admits is something he's thought about while patiently waiting for the season to resume. 

"It'd be unbelievable," he said. "To start it and close it in the same way and ride off into the sunset, kind of like John Elway or something. That'd be pretty cool."