PERKINSTON — The Mississippi Gulf Coast golf team will be the first from the school to get back to competition on Monday, when the Bulldogs tee off the 2020-21 season at the NJCAA District D Preview in Canton.
"It's been almost eight months since we played," Gulf Coast coach Tommy Snell said. "The guys are just chomping at the bits to play again, as I'm sure everybody is."
The Bulldogs were ranked eighth in the Bushnell Golfweek NJCAA Division II Coaches Poll when they last played in early April. They will be without Nicklaus Award winner Jon Hopkins, who graduated and is playing at Florida Gulf Coast.
Snell, though, has reloaded the Gulf Coast roster.
"We've got a very young team, but they're a talented bunch of freshmen," he said. "I'm looking forward to watching those freshmen compete. We'll put them under the gun and see how they do."
The five golfers who will make up the team for the 18-hole event at Deerfield Golf Club include two sophomore leaders in Hayden Green (So., D'Iberville/Biloxi) and Peyton Norwood (So., Jackson Prep/Madison).
It will be the second sophomore season for Green. He had finished tied for eighth at the Coastal Alabama Invitational in February and had three other top-20 finishes. Norwood made the five-man squad twice as a freshman.
"Those two sophomores are going to kind of anchor the team, but they're going to have to play well to stay ahead of those freshmen. Already, those freshmen have shown they're not scared of the sophomores. They're going to have to work hard."
The three freshmen on the five-man team are part of a super-productive Madison pipeline Snell has developed. Cade Wilkinson (Fr, Madison Central/Madison), Reeves Johnson (Fr, Germantown/Madison) and Matt Wilkinson (Fr, Madison Central/Madison) join Norwood from that town. And Chase Wilkinson (Fr, Madison Central/Madison) is playing in the event as an individual, along with Hayden Russell (Fr, Gautier/Gautier). Snell says both of them are threats to move into the top-five any qualifier.
The Wilkinsons all have connections to former Gulf Coast All-American Brice Wilkinson, who played on the 2018 national championship squad. Cade and Chase are twins and Brice's brothers, and Matt is their cousin.
"It's going to be one of the most fun years I've had because it's going to be a very competitive year on our squad," Snell said. "They're going to be battling every qualifier."
The Bulldogs also expect to add another talented golfer for the spring when Ethan Trouth, from Coldfield Sutton, England, enrolls after the Christmas break.
Ty Lamb (So, Hancock/Diamondhead) and Dalton Necaise (So, Pass Christian/Pass Christian) also return for a second season. Other first-year players on the team include Dawson Thompson (Fr, Pascagoula/Pascagoula), Dawson Cudd (So, Stone/Wiggins) and Clayton Hansen (Fr, Hancock/Diamondhead).
The MACCC is expanding again this season, with Southwest Mississippi returning to action. That brings the number of schools playing golf to seven
"It will be competitive like always," Snell said. "We've got a new team in the conference at Southwest, and (former longtime Copiah-Lincoln coach) Ronny Ross always does a great job."
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.
By: Don Hammack
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College