Eleventh. That was the national ranking of The Master’s College men’s golf team going into the Golden State Athletic Conference Championship April 15-16, 2013. The team featured a number of experienced upperclassmen that were ready to reap the benefits of several years of hard work. Expectations were soaring as the Mustangs traveled to the two-day tournament in Monroe, Oregon.
After the second round on the first day, TMC was neck and neck for first with Warner Pacific College of Oregon. By the time the third and last round ended the second day, TMC had an 18-stroke lead over the Knights.
By winning the conference championship for just the fourth time in school history, The Master’s College men’s golf team automatically qualified for the NAIA Men’s Golf National Championships to be held in Salem, Oregon, in just under a month.
Just a week or two before nationals, a situation came to light that several Mustang players had broken college and team rules. A decision had to be made by TMC whether to send the team to nationals after the infraction.
In the end, instead of competing for a championship on the green against some of the nation’s best, the Mustangs sat out the tournament at home on their couches.
“It was a very tough decision, but I think it was best for the guys and their growth as men in the Lord.” said TMC men’s golf head coach Jason Semelsberger. “[It was also] best for the program in terms of being consistent with living out who we say we are and representing Christ.”
The decision had a rippling effect that spread to the next season.
Since The Master’s College voluntarily put themselves on probation from nationals, they infringed on NAIA rule VI Section B.4. Since TMC had signed a “Declaration of Intent to Participate” in nationals and withdrew after the filing deadline the golf team was suspended from a potential trip to the championship the next year.
According to the NAIA Official & Policy Handbook, part of IV Section B.4 states, “Institutions suspended due to a failure to meet Declaration of Intent to Participate requirements shall not be permitted to participate in NAIA national championship competition.”
The Master’s College brought the suspension applied by the NAIA before the National Administrative Council but did not win the appeal. Instead the golf team was banned from both conference and national postseason competition for the 2013-14 year.
The rippling effect had an influence on recruiting fresh talent. For some, the possibility of probation determined their final decision not to play for TMC. For others, like Josh Gardella, the controversial appeal issue left him unfazed.
“I think it was November when it was finally decided,” said Gardella. “I like that The Master’s College is a Christian school that is actually faithful to what they truly believe.”
During the 2013-14 season, the team struggled at times through a season that would have no postseason. The team included four seniors who were at the peak of their collegiate game. One of them was two-time All American First Team selection, Thane Ringler.
Ringler had the option to transfer to another school to compete for a national championship.
“There’s no reason to do that other than just running from consequences,” Ringler said. “I was really thankful to stay and go through the last year and a half, even though we didn’t have the end goal of nationals. Still, [we kept] working hard and getting better and improving our game.”
Twenty-third. That was the national ranking of The Master’s College men’s golf team going into the Golden State Athletic Conference Championship on April 15-16, 2015. The team featured a number of talented underclassmen that were in the midst of growing and refining their collegiate game. Expectations were within reason as the Mustangs traveled to the two-day tournament in Redding, California.
After the second round, TMC was neck and neck for first with Embry Riddle, Arizona. By the time the third and last round ended the second day, TMC had a four-stroke edge.
By winning the conference championship— the fifth title in school history—The Master’s College men’s golf team automatically qualified for the NAIA Men’s Golf National Championships to be held in Daytona Beach, Florida, held May 19-22, 2015.
Thane Ringler, now a graduate, has been working with the team as an assistant coach.
“If they can perform under the pressure of nationals with a mature mindset and a mature game plan and play well, I think they are going to be very successful. They have the skills and the talents to do it,” he said.
The team is unique because they have had so much collegiate golf experience while most are still underclassmen. The team has been working on limiting small mistakes and playing maturely, which involves being patient and controlling their emotions after mistakes.
“I think that this team has a lot of potential, if we can apply some of the lessons we’ve learned throughout the year,” said Semelsberger. “I think that we can do well at nationals and I’m really excited about the years to come together with this team.”
This time, The Master’s College men’s golf team is ready to compete for a championship with confidence and integrity.
“Not going to nationals freshman year made me want to make sure we went my sophomore year,” Gardella said.
By Jonathan Wais