Samantha DeBusk, Junior, hitting a tee shot during the 2019-2020 season. Submitted Image/Mark Debusk.
The coach and players are essential components of a team. Without either, you are left with just the equipment. With COVID-19 taking a toll on UNCP Athletics revenue, the women’s golf program was faced with that harsh reality.
The program has been ‘suspended,’ according to Athletics Director Dick Christy. Athle
tics leadership may revisit the potential to field a team two years from now.
As a senior graduating in May, golfer Samantha DeBusk said she considers the suspension an elimination, especially after coming back from an injury. She said she will miss being around her teammates and that the team created a family atmosphere.
“When one golfer finishes a round, she goes to visit and cheer on another golfer who is still on the course,” she said. “At the end of practice, the whole team could be found cheering on the last player.”
Coach David Synan said he will miss the players because they kept him feeling young and inspired every day. As a coach for more than 15 years, he enjoyed engaging with the players at practices and forming lifelong friendships.
He said his main goal as their coach was to “develop young people into young adults.” He thinks he achieved his goal by annually molding a group of young women from strangers to teammates through golf.
Like many teams, the golf team had its challenges over the years. Indeed, the men’s golf program was eliminated in a round of Athletics budget cuts that included women’s tennis after the 2013-14 season.
One issue the golf team faced was not having an on-campus facility where they could play, so UNCP was paying greens fees on three area golf courses. The team’s regional and national travel was also expensive.
Overall, Braves golf had the third-highest expenditure per player at UNCP, after men’s and women’s basketball, according to Christy.
“With this challenge, the team persevered, showing both effort and great attitude,” said Synan, who is now out of a job.
Together the men and women’s golf teams celebrate and remember 35 team wins, three Peach Belt Championships, two NCAA Division 2 Top 10 teams, 45 All-Americans, and many quality people.
Synan’s advice to other student athletes is to enjoy what they currently have because nothing lasts forever.
Since first reporting for this story, the Pine Needle has learned that the Braves golfers have been offered opportunities to represent UNCP and themselves at seasonal collegiate tournaments this semester and next, with an anonymous donor funding their travel expenses and entry fees. Such competition would be charged to their athletic eligibility but could improve their records to appeal to schools where they might transfer or pursue graduate degrees.