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DeFranco leads Golf in record-setting meet

JP DeFranco ’18 led the Pioneers last Saturday, scoring 66, a Pioneer record. Photo by Misha Gelnarova
JP DeFranco ’18 led the Pioneers last Saturday, scoring 66, a Pioneer record. Photo by Misha Gelnarova
JP DeFranco ’18 led the Pioneers last Saturday, scoring 66, a Pioneer record. Photo by Misha Gelnarova

In a season where the Pioneers are trying to rebuild the Grinnell men’s golf team, last Saturday was a huge step in the right direction. Grinnell won the Stone Creek Challenge in Williamsburg, Iowa this past weekend, beating Central College’s A, B and C teams. The Pioneers shot to a combined score of 279, shattering the previous school record of 301 established at the course in 2010.

The win represents just the first victory for Grinnell golf since 2010, a fact not lost on head coach Brian “Jaws” Jaworski.

“Three years ago, Central would have beat us by 35 strokes. This same team,” Jaworski said.

Along with the team success, the Stone Creek Challenge was full of individual accomplishments for the Pioneers. First year JP DeFranco ’18 cruised to a school record-setting score of 66. The score was five under par and good for second place in the tournament. DeFranco missed first place by a single stroke. The performance has garnered DeFranco regional attention, as he was named the Midwest Conference Men’s Golf Performer of the Week.

“I’ve been playing pretty well since the start of the season and not everything had clicked at the right moment. I guess that was Saturday,” DeFranco said.

“JP is someone that has impressed me, for a first year, with his preparation. And keep in mind he is a very good student too. But he is finding time to do the little things that make a difference in Division III athletics,” Jaworski said of his star performer.

Along with DeFranco’s superb effort, Jaworski was quick to note the accomplishments of his other four golfers. First years Evan Bunis ’18 and Zach McGriff ’18 were just behind DeFranco in a tie for third place, with scores of 68.

Rockne DeCoster ’15 and Nirabh Koirala ’17 added scores of 77 and 78 respectively to round out the Pioneers’ strong day.

Jaworski said he likes the hungry attitudes all his golfers bring to their meets.

“There’s no quit in any of our players this year,” Jaworski said.

Jaworski mentioned how Grinnell could be seen as being at a disadvantage, with five male golfers, just one above the minimum needed to compete in the league. However, the Pioneers do not choose to see it that way.

“We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We’re ready for this challenge,” Jaworski said.

The coach went so far as to liken his team to recent March Madness winners the Duke Blue Devils, who won the national title with their rallying cry of “eight is enough.” Eight represents the relatively small number of scholarship players Duke had on their roster.

The success of the men’s golf team has not come by accident. According to DeFranco, there was a conscious decision to refocus the team this year.

“This year has been kind of a rebuilding year and a reimagining year for the golf team. Our coaches put a lot more serious thought into it,” he said. “Normally it has just been about playing golf and getting good grades but now it’s getting good grades and playing really good golf.”

The rebuild is hardly just about this year, as the team must also plan for the future.

“We got a couple recruits coming in next year and the golf team is going to be pretty exciting for the next couple of years,” DeFranco said.

With this newfound attitude and their early results, Grinnell men’s golf is clearly on the rise with all kinds of potential for the future.

Next weekend the team travels to Waverly, Iowa to take part in the Wartburg Invitational and hopefully build on last week’s superb effort.

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