Sophomore golfer Johnny Watts gets ready to tee off on the par-3 16th hole at Delaware Country Club in the Earl Yestingsmeier Invitational. Watts finished the tournament in a three-way tie for the second place while the Cardinals won the team title. DN PHOTO COLIN GRYLLS
Johnny Watts leads Ball State into MAC Championships
Only three Ball State men's golfers have won the Mid-American Conference Championship individual title.
The first was Kirk Schooley in 1983, and the second was Jamie Broce in 1997.
But only one Ball State men's golfer has won it in his first season.
MAC Individual Champions
Kirk Schooley - 1983
Jamie Broce - 1997
Johnny Watts - 2015
Johnny Watts in 2015.
The now-sophomore was also an NCAA Regional Participant, All-MAC First Team and MAC All-Tournament Team honors last season.
He will be returning to the MAC Championships on April 28-30 at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio.
Because of his previous accomplishments, expectations were high for Watts this season, and he has met those expectations with his performance on the course.
Watts has recorded five top 10 performances, seven top 20s and scored in the 60s four rounds this season, leading the Cardinals lineup in each category.
He said that getting into golf was never in question.
"I've been playing ever since I can remember," Watts said. "My dad played in college and grew up playing golf, so they like to joke that it was predetermined that I would be playing golf. I grew up with a golf club in my hand."
This year, Watts also leads the team in scoring average with 73.50 for 18 holes. He owns the three best 54-hole scores for the team this year and has been the leader scorer for the Cardinals in eight of the 11 stroke play events he has played this year.
These statistics were much different entering the MAC Tournament last season, as Watts entered conference play with the third best stroke average on the team behind senior McCormick Clouser and then-freshman Michael VanDeventer.
Throughout high school, Watts was an avid competitor at Hamilton Southeastern. Still, he said making the switch to college was no easy task.
"The competition is obviously way stronger, and the courses are way harder," Watts said. "You need to know that every week is not going to be perfect, and it's going to be a grind."
Watts admits that the better part of his first year on campus was all a transition. He needed to adjust to his new role on the team and to his situation as a college golfer, but his teammates helped the transition.
Most of the roster is from Indiana, and they had all played against each other in high school. Now they are working toward the same goal: moving into MAC Championship play.
Watts said he is holding himself to the same expectations he has every weekend.
"We have the same expectations every week," Watts said. "I don't hold myself to a different expectation this tournament than I did two tournaments ago. I expect to play well and to finish well."