The year 2007 was a banner year for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men’s golf team, as the Mocs won four team titles, including the Southern Conference Championship, and advanced to the NCAA Regional Championship for the first time.
After three top-five finishes in five fall events, the Mocs were primed for a good run entering the spring portion of the schedule. It did not take long for the Mocs to emerge as a favorite for the Southern Conference title.
The Mocs came from behind in the final round to claim a one stroke win over Tulsa in the Rio Pinar Intercollegiate in mid-February and followed that with another win one week later at the Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate. It was only the second time in school history that the Mocs had claimed back-to-back tournaments.
In late March, the Mocs broke the school record for victories in a season by winning for a third time. Led by freshman Derek Rende’s school record 63, the Mocs posted the lowest 18-hole score in team history with an 11-under par 277 to coast to a win at the University of South Alabama Spring Golf Classic. Rende’s 63 carried him to the individual win, making him the second freshman in school history to win an individual title. It marked just the second time the Mocs had won both the individual and team titles at an event.
The Mocs were the prohibitive favorite entering the Southern Conference Championships, a position they had never enjoyed in the program’s 30-year history. Ranked among the national top-40 for the first time, the pressure was on the Mocs to deliver the school’s first NCAA postseason appearance. Although Chattanooga won the Southern Conference crown in 1987, there was no NCAA postseason for the SoCon champ at the time.
The Mocs came through, leading the tournament wire-to-wire en route to end a 20-year drought and claim the school’s second Southern Conference championship with a nine-stroke win. The victory assured the Mocs of the school’s first NCAA Regional bid.
In a final tune-up before the NCAAs, the squad finished ahead of four Top-25 teams with a fourth-place finish at the Linger Longer Invitational.
The Mocs were seeded 13th in the 27-team field at the NCAA East Regional played at The Golf Club of Georgia. The top 10 teams would advance to the NCAA Championships. The first day of the tournament ended with the Mocs in 11th place and in position to contend for a championship berth. The final two rounds were not as kind, and the team finished 19th to end the season.
The Mocs enjoyed their share of postseason honors, placing three players on the All-Southern Conference team. Senior Bryce Ledford and sophomore Jonathan Hodge were named to the team for the second time, while freshman Derek Rende also made the squad.
Hodge was also selected as the Southern Conference Player of the Year, the first time a Chattanooga player has earned the honor. Hodge’s stroke average of 72.7 led the Southern Conference. He produced seven top-10 finishes and was runner-up at the SoCon Championship. Rende was the league’s Freshman of the Year also becoming the first UTC player to claim the accolade. Rende had the team’s second lowest stroke average after the SoCon Championships and was the only freshman in the league to win a tournament.
Chattanooga head coach Mark Guhne was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year. In his two years at the helm, the Mocs have won five team titles and two individual wins. They have had five players honored as All-Conference and have risen from 105th to 41st in the national rankings while claiming the program’s first SoCon title in 20 years.
With both the SoCon Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year returning in 2007-08, combined with a strong recruiting class, it shouldn't be 20 years before Chattanooga claims another conference crown.
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Head Coach Mark Guhne
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