January 22, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Golf will be in the spotlight Saturday afternoon at John A. Logan College when the athletic department inducts one team and three individuals into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

The 2009 Volunteers team was the first Logan sports team to capture a national championship, coming from six strokes behind on the last day of the tourney to win by two over Darton State, Ga.

The team, led by veteran head coach Tom Ferris, showcased three All-American performers in Matt Smith, Tyler Ekenberg and Marcelo Rozo. That trio will also be inducted for individual accomplishments.

“I think it’s simply outstanding news that the 2009 team is getting recognized this year, along with Matt, Tyler and Marcelo,” Ferris said. “Those are very deserving kids who put team above individual accomplishment. What made that team special is that they got better and better as the season wore on. They believed in themselves and worked hard to accomplish their goals.”

JALC Athletic Director Jerry Halstead concurred.

“It’s a well-deserved honor,” he said of the inductees. “Along with their teammates, this group of three delivered the first national championship in school history. They should all be very proud of their accomplishments. As a school and department, we certainly are proud of them.”

Ferris said he felt the team was talented enough to win a title.

“But being talented enough isn’t always enough,” he said. “You need some luck, too, because the competition was good. I told the kids not to leave anything on the course. I said, ‘Let’s get some birdies and put some pressure on people.’ And that’s what we did.”

Ferris added that remaining team members – Jamie Stocks, Joe Goelzhauser, Adam Butler, Dean Bechtold and Scott Juhl – all played key roles in the team’s success. It wasn’t just a three-person show.

“Not at all. They pushed one another in practice to get better and that’s how they got better. That championship season was certainly memorable. You can only have one first time. It’s something that can’t be duplicated.”

The 2009 team also captured the Region 24 title leading up to Nationals at Goose Pond Colony Golf Course in Scottsboro, Ala.

MARCELO ROZO, CLASS OF 2010

Rozo left Logan after his two-year stint in Carterville as the most decorated golfer in school history. He was a two-time All-American performer, helping to lead the Vols to a national title in 2009 and second-place finish in 2010.

As a sophomore, he won the individual championship with a four-round combined score of 284 and was named “National Player of the Year.”

He was a two-time Region 24 “Player of the Year” with a record 10-under-par performance his sophomore year. He was also a two-time Great Rivers Athletic Conference champion. He also holds the school record of nine tournament wins in a career. He transferred from Logan to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, graduating in 2014.

Upon completing his collegiate eligibility, Rozo qualified for the PGA Latin American tour, where he earned a No. 1 ranking. He has since qualified for the Web.Com Professional Golf Tour.

“Marcelo was simply an outstanding player, the best we’ve ever had here at Logan,” Ferris said. “He is probably the most amazing ball striker I have seen in the junior college ranks and holds most of our records even today. He was a hard worker, a team player, and a very good person. It wasn’t easy for him to come from South America and adapt to Southern Illinois, but he handled it well.”

Rozo said it’s an honor to be inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.

“I appreciate the recognition,” he said. “I would like to think it’s the result of all the hard work I put in when there. I can’t thank the people at the college enough for their support then and since I left. Logan was my first home away from home and will always hold a special place in my heart. It is because of my success there that I became motivated to continue on my path to achieve my dream of being a professional golfer.”

Rozo said he has a treasure trove of memories that were punctuated with the national title run in 2009.

“And it wasn’t just the golf,” he said. “I enjoyed the camaraderie of my teammates and Coach Ferris. The laughs we had on our van rides around the country. I’ll never forget them. It was a great time.”

MATT SMITH, CLASS OF 2010

Smith was another key member of the 2009 National Championship Vols golf team and second-place team in 2010. In the championship season of ’09, he led the team with a combined score of 285.

He was a two-time All-American First Team selection, as well as All-Region 24 and All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference. When Smith graduated, he held the 18-hole scoring record of 64 posted at the Shawnee Invitational at Dalhousie Golf Club, where he won the tournament championship. Upon graduation, he accepted a scholarship to Virgina Commonwealth University. He played two years there and later graduated.

“Matt was our team captain,” Ferris said. “He’s an outstanding young man who enjoyed a very productive career with us. He was one of the driving forces on our team and a steadying influence with many of the other players.”

Smith said he was excited to hear the news of his induction.

“It’s such a great honor,” he said. “I think what stands out to me is that we were all freshmen. By the time the spring rolled around, you could see us coming together as a team. And then at Nationals, we just continued to get better. What a great experience it was!”

Smith went on to graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University in December of 2012 and is now employed in his hometown of Lancaster, Pa. as a credit analyst with Fulton Financial Corporation.

“I can’t wait to get back and see Coach Ferris, his wife, Kay, and the guys. I haven’t seen some of them since I left Logan,” Smith said.

TYLER EKENBERG, CLASS OF 2009

Ekenberg was yet another stalwart of the 2009 National Championship Vols golf team his freshman year and was named All-American for his efforts.

His birdie putt on the final hole of the last day vaulted the Vols to victory at Nationals. Additionally, Ekenberg was selected All-Region 24 and All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference. Ekenberg transferred to North Alabama University after his freshman year and enjoyed a stellar career there. Had he stayed at Logan in 2010, he might have elevated the Vols from a second-place finish at Nationals in Mesa, Ariz. to back-to-back titles.

Ekenberg enjoyed a successful run in his three years at North Alabama and is now competing professionally on the Asian Tour.

“Tyler was an outstanding junior college player who came to us from Minnesota,” Ferris said. “He was a solid player who pushed himself to become a better player when he was here. There’s no doubt he would have made a difference with our 2010 team, but you couldn’t fault him for moving on to a four-year school a year early. It was a good career choice.”

Ekenberg said he was pleased to learn that he and the 2009 team had been named to the Hall of Fame.

“It was a special season. We had a rough fall, but then got Marcelo to join us at the start of the spring semester and that made a big difference with us,” Ekenberg said. “It took some pressure off us, which allowed us to relax and play better.”

Ekenberg said Nationals was memorable.

“Being down six strokes on the last day and coming back to win was really fun. I think, for all of us, it was an incredible experience.”

Ekenberg said his birdie on the last hole put an exclamation point on the win.

“It’s cool to know that we are the ones who got the first championship. I will never forget that feeling. Although I was only at Logan for one year, it was special to me. I grew up a lot that year. My experience there made my transition to a four-year school much easier.”