Lexington, Ky. – Following the conclusion of hosting duties for the 2019 NCAA Division III Men's Golf National Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club, one of the grandest events in the history of Transylvania Athletics, the Transylvania men's golf team returns to the links this fall as it takes aim at the next chapter of nationally-renowned excellence.
After preparing for over two years for an event which captured the attention of the Division III men's golf world and took over Central Kentucky this past May, the Pioneers clinched their 13th consecutive trip to an NCAA National Championship where they recorded a 21st-place finish.
Perhaps more importantly within the lens of the 2019 year, the Transylvania men's golf program and Transylvania Athletics Department as a whole sent 42 teams and over 200 golfers away from central Kentucky with indelible memories of a jaw-dropping weeklong experience.
Led by 13-time Heartland Collegiate Athletic Coach of the Year Brian Lane, who enters his 16th year at his post as Transylvania men's golf head coach, the Pioneers have begun to generate a blueprint for a new year which possesses a night-and-day feel compared to the festive procession that accompanied the 2018-2019 season.
"The Transylvania and central Kentucky golf communities came together to put on one of the best NCAA Championships in the history of Division III golf," observes Lane. "Our student-athletes were very appreciative of all the support and extra effort that went into hosting such a prestigious event. Obviously, it is much easier to drive to the airport and fly to the NCAA Championships but I don't think anyone in our program would have wanted it any other way last year."
Now, back in the typically familiar pipeline of a season that ends outside of the Bluegrass state, the Pioneers are striving to not only deliver a sufficient encore performance but to continue a long tradition of dominance.
This season, the road ends for the best teams in both women's and men's NCAA Division III golf in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida at the PGA National Golf Course. The Pioneers men's and women's golf teams, which have each appeared in consecutive national championships entering the 2019-20 season, hope to make it a package deal next May down in Florida with a potential double qualification. But before each team can think about the finish line, both Pioneer programs have plenty of work to do, beginning officially this weekend.
The roadmap for the Pioneers begins as it typically does in Lexington at the University Club in Kentucky where Transylvania will welcome 16 teams to town for the Transylvania Invitational, a three-round affair that serves as the official start of the fall season and offers a challenging but fair measuring stick for early-season progress.
The Transylvania Invitational kicks off a telling September which will challenge the Pioneers to the max while also offering the team a new opportunity to gel with one another. "Our Invitational is always the kickoff for the upcoming season," says Lane. "We historically have a very good field in attendance with at least eight to nine states represented. Traveling to Florida for the NCAA Preview at PGA National will be a great chance to see where this year's team stacks up against the other top teams in the country."
This year's roster blends a mixture of new and old as the Pioneers graduated three seniors from their 2018-19 roster. Always a program that has reloaded rather than rebuilt, Transylvania now looks to a group of youngsters whose contributions will be valued right off the tee.
Sophomore Tim Alexander looks to spread his wings after a fruitful summer which has translated into a strong week of early qualifying. "Tim is a solid golfer that wasn't able to crack the top five last year but has really put a great deal of time and energy into his game this summer," says Lane. "He played our first 27 holes of qualifying this year without a bogey and has shot under par in multiple rounds."
Two mainstays who will lead the charge for the Pioneers in 2019-20 are seniors Spencer McKinney and Harrison Lane, the latter being the son of Lane and grandson to the longtime legendary patriarch of the Transy Men's Basketball program, Don Lane. A two-sport athlete at Transylvania, McKinney enters his final season with the men's golf team with already three national championship appearances under his belt while Lane is a veteran of two NCAA national championship competitions.
"Harrison was one of our most consistent players last year by having his score count in almost every single round of the season," adds the elder Lane. "His positive attitude and tremendous work effort allow him to take on a huge leadership role on this year's team. Spencer is coming off another all-region year and having won the HCAC individual title early in his career, could be poised for a great senior campaign."
Senior Jeb Brumley will also be a featured part of the Pioneers' lineup for 2018-19; "Jeb is always one of our most accurate golfers," says Lane. "He has been right on the cusp of working into the top five the last two years and I am expecting him to have a terrific senior campaign."
As the calendar shifts from 2019 to the one-fifth mark of the century, the Pioneers will approach a different-looking conference tournament when it rolls around next May. The 2020 HCAC Tournament has been pared back from a 72-hole championship spanning two weekends to a three-round, 54-hole championship taking place at one location over three days.
Whether the logistical adjustment to the NCAA-qualifying event helps or hinders the Pioneers, who have dominated it over the past 13 years, remains to be seen.
"The decision is significant in that it cuts down on an extra weekend of travel which could be a positive," speculates Lane. "We modeled our championship after the NCAA to ensure we didn't send an automatic qualifier to the NCAA Championships with just 36 holes of play. This past year was the first time we had a shortened championship with 54 holes due to rain and hopefully, we won't run into weather issues in the future. We have taken some pretty sizable leads on the field into the final weekend of the HCAC Championship so the strategy with a shortened event is to get off to a hot start."
As changes small and large in scale swirl around the Division III men's golf landscape, the Pioneers remain focused on continuing to elevate their program in terms of play and prestige. "For a university to take on the monumental task of hosting an NCAA national championship, I believe it shows current players and especially prospective student-athletes how much our golf program is supported," extols Lane. "We do everything that can be done to be a top-ranked program in the country."
This weekend, the Pioneers hit the course at the University Club to begin their pursuit of achieving that goal once more.
Follow Pioneer men's golf on Twitter @TransyGolf