Western Washington University men's golf senior Sandy Vaughan is as confident as they come.
In life, in competition and most importantly in golf, self doubt doesn't sit well with him.
"One thing I've come to realize in golf and sports and just about anything else in life, confidence is the key factor in getting to where you want to be," Vaughan said in a phone interview. "You have to set goals and believe in those. If you don't believe in yourself, I don't see who else is going to (believe in you)."
Vaughan's poise was on full display last year when he helped the Vikings reach the NCAA Division II National Tournament for the first time in four years.
Western placed ninth after three days of stroke play and fell one stroke shy of advancing to match play, which gives eight teams a chance to play for a national title.
Now that WWU has measured itself against the top Division II competition in the country, the Vikings are hungry to return to the national stage.
Vaughan has little doubt about Western's chances.
"We can win nationals. We can do anything that we set our minds to," Vaughan said. "Golf is a really funny game. Unlike a lot of sports it's an individual sport that requires participation from all five teammates. You have to get the right bounces, but we have the same talent level as any team in the nation."
Vaughan even went so far as to compare his team's roster to professional powerhouses, saying he feels "Western is like the Yankees or Lakers of Division II golf."
At the same time, Vaughan said he realizes talk is cheap.
There is good reason to heed his words, though. Western returns five of its top six players. Those five, including Vaughan, are senior Dylan Goodwin, a third-team All-American, junior Craig Crawford, 2011's Great Northwest Athletic Conference medalist, senior Jake Webb and sophomore Mark Strickland.
Nick Varelia is the only loss from last year's starting five. Strickland is expected to replace Varelia.
"We have a tremendous amount of potential," WWU coach Steve Card said in a phone interview. "You never know what to expect. The potential is there, though, if we can get the job done. It's a matter of how hard you work over the course of the season."
The collegiate golf season is a marathon, not a sprint. Western opens its 2012-13 campaign Monday, Sept. 17, at the University of Indianapolis Invitational in Indianapolis, Ind. The NCAA Division II National Tournament is the third week in May.
Western's roster gives Card confidence, and so does the way the Vikings have been playing over the summer.
"Last year's squad experienced some success, and more recently they all have had successful summers," Card said. "There's good reason to be optimistic for what's in store."
Goodwin won the 82nd Annual Snohomish County Amateur Golf Tournament, Vaughan won a Seattle Amateur Championship, Webb earned overall low gross honors at the Bellingham Amateur Tournament and Strickland won the Everett Amateur while placing second in both the Snohomish and Seattle Amateur Tournaments.
Card's roster is one of the strongest he's had in recent memory.
"I don't see any weaknesses in our team," Card said. "In the past, we've had two or three players we could get a great performance out of. Anyone could be our top player this year."
Still, it's a long road to Nationals, and Western knows it'll have to put in plenty of hard work along the way.
Card said the bulk of that work will be spent on each other's short game.
"All year long, the guys can hit the ball pretty solid and a long way," Card said. "It really comes down to 100 yards and in. How good are you from 100 yards in? Coming into the season we want to make sure our short game is sound."
Vaughan, like Card, understands the importance of strong play on and around greens. Given the speed of Whatcom County greens, or lack thereof, Vaughan, who Card billed as Western's best ball striker, said the Vikings need to master their short iron game in an effort to land shots close to the hole to avoid long putts.
"We struggle having good greens up here to practice on," Vaughan said. "It's a struggle with the wind and wet greens. I think if we can hone in this winter on our ball striking, and get it up to top notch, we'll make it easier on ourselves."
Vaughan's team goal is to win at least every other tournament, win regionals and compete for a national championship. Personally, he said he wants his scoring average to be below par and also win a couple tournaments.
"We are a dominant team in Division II," Vaughan said. "If we (play well), there is no reason why we can't do what the basketball team did and win a national championship. A lot of teams take the trip to the championship before they get one themselves. We've been there and tasted it. We really want to get there again."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
2012 WWU MENS' GOLF SCHEDULE
Date Tournament Location Time
Sept. 17 vs. University of Indianapolis Invite Indianapolis, Ind. All Day
Sept. 18 vs. University of Indianapolis Invite Indianapolis, Ind. All Day
Sept. 24 Western Washington University Invite Bellingham All Day
Sept. 25 Western Washington University Invite Bellingham All Day
Oct. 1 at Golfweek Invitational Sunriver, Ore. All Day
Oct. 2 at Golfweek Invitational Sunriver, Ore. All Day
Oct. 8 at Chico State Invitational Corning, Calif. All Day
Oct. 9 at Chico State Invitational Corning, Calif. All Day
Oct. 22 at Cal State Monterey Bay Seaside, Calif. All Day
Oct. 23 at Cal State Monterey Bay Seaside, Calif. All Day
Feb. 8 at British Columbia Vancouver, B.C. All Day
March 4 vs. St. Edward's Invitational Austin, Texas All Day
March 5 vs. St. Edward's Invitational Austin, Texas All Day
March 25 vs. Cal-Baptist Invitational Corona, Calif. All Day
March 26 vs. Cal-Baptist Invitational Corona, Calif. All Day
April 8 vs. Saint Martin's Invitational Dupont All Day
April 9 vs. Saint Martin's Invitational Dupont All Day
April 15 vs. Cal State Stanislaus Invitational Turlock, Calif. All Day
April 16 vs. Cal State Stanislaus Invitational Turlock, Calif. All Day
April 22 vs. GNAC Championships Coeur d'Alene, Idaho All Day
April 23 vs. GNAC Championships Coeur d'Alene, Idaho All Day
May 6 vs. NCAA II West/South Central Super Regional Dupont All Day
May 7 vs. NCAA II West/South Central Super Regional Dupont All Day
May 8 vs. NCAA II West/South Central Super Regional Dupont All Day
May 20 vs. NCAA II National Championship Hershey, Pa. All Day
May 21 vs. NCAA II National Championship Hershey, Pa. All Day
May 22 vs. NCAA II National Championship Hershey, Pa. All Day
May 23 vs. NCAA II National Championship Hershey, Pa. All Day
May 24 vs. NCAA II National Championship Hershey, Pa. All Day
2012 WWU MEN'S GOLF ROSTER
Player Year Hometown
Craig Crawford JR Stanwood
Brennan Emory FR Mount Vernon
Dylan Goodwin SR Mukilteo
Jack Kelly RS FR Snoqualmie
Kyle Lindor FR Woodinville
Evan Needham SR Lynden
Kyle Schrader SO Olympia
Mark Strickland SO Mukilteo
Sandy Vaughan SR Seattle
Jake Webb SR Issaquah
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.