by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Ashley Leonard, who is beginning her sixth season as head coach of the golf programs at Barton College, believes her men's team can compete at the national level in 2018-19, and says her players believe it, too.
She is giving them a chance to prove it in the fall portion of their schedule, as she has entered the Bulldogs into four very challenging events.
"I believe this team is a top-25 team that has the desire to constantly improve," Leonard said. "They believe they are one of the best, and this schedule will certainly allow them an opportunity to go play with some of the best schools in our region and in the country."
Barton will once again host the Cutter Creek Invitational on September 10 and 11 at Cutter Creek Golf Club in Kinston, but the Bulldogs will be playing in the event as individuals.
BC's first official team tournament will take place a week later at the Kiawah Island Invitational in Kiawah Island, S.C. The Bulldogs will also play in the Jay Jennison Cup at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., on September 24 and 25 before taking a brief break.
"Our men will open the season at Kiawah, an event that traditionally has a strong field," Leonard said. "It will be important for us to get off to a good start and set the tone for the fall season. Our next event, hosted by Flagler College, will be a new event for us and another strong test."
Barton will round out the fall slate with back-to-back events in mid-October. First, the Bulldogs will return to Morganton, N.C., to compete in the Donald Ross Invitational on October 15 and 16. BC will close the fall schedule on October 22 and 23 at the Matt Dyas Invitational in Carrollton, Ga.
"Our men will head back to the Donald Ross Invitational this year and look to improve on last year," Leonard said. "There will be some quality teams there that should help us with our regional ranking if we can play well. Our final event of the fall will be a new event for us hosted by the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Ga. Again, the field should be a solid regional field, and it will be important for our guys to perform well there and end the fall season in a good position as we head in to the spring."
The Bulldogs return 10 players – including three all-conference performers – from a 2017-18 squad that finished second in the Conference Carolinas Championship. Leonard has also added one freshman and one junior transfer to the mix.
"We have our top three players from last season returning, and I expect for them to continue to carry the load for us this year," Leonard said. "We have a lot of depth on our team, and some young guys will certainly make a push to be a stable fixture in our lineup."
NOTE: The 2018 Barton College men's golf fall schedule is subject to change. Fans are encouraged to check the women's golf schedule page on www.BartonBulldogs.com throughout the season to confirm dates, times and locations.