The 1980 season was a banner year for Capital University Men’s Golf, which still holds as the best season in program history. How amazing was it? Well …
The team was led by two All-Americans in senior Ken Weixel and freshman Bill Stebelton. Weixel was the lone senior and along with junior Mark Stegner, were co-captains and made up the only upperclassmen on the roster that was filled out with a group of talented underclassmen including Stebleton, Greg Kline, Paul Pope and Doug Steiner Whitey Regan was the team’s head coach.
Together, the Crusaders compiled a 62-4 record against NCAA Division III opponents and a 52-2 record against Ohio Conference (as it was known at the time) opponents.
Excuse the crossover sport reference but the first hurdle that Capital faced was qualifying for Nationals. Not only did the Purple and White do so, but they also collected its first conference title! Against an incredibly competitive Ohio Conference (OC), Capital finished the championship with a 54-hole team score of 1,160, 17 shots better than second-place Wooster. Weixel finished atop the leaderboard, carding 221 (+5) to earn medalist honors and clear the field by five strokes. The runner-up honors went to none other than freshman Bill Stebelton (226, +10).
On to the NCAA Championship! Normally the decision to drive or fly is pretty easy, especially when the destination is Des Moines, Iowa. But Coach Regan and the Crusaders gathered and discussed how to spend the NCAA’s championship stipend. Instead of flying, the team decided to drive and with the extra money get new, spiffy threads to sport on the links. Look good, play good … right?
It wasn’t just the new uniforms people were talking about when Capital arrived. The Crusaders had everybody talking before the tournament even officially began. During their second practice round, the team playing in a five-some had reached the 11th hole, a long par-5 that doglegged to the left that was reachable in two shots. After the men fired off their second shots to try to reach the green, Weixel searched high and low for his ball that was nowhere to be found until a teammate reached the pin and found it nestled in the cup for a double-eagle. That shot proved to be a good omen for Capital in the coming days and was celebrated at the players dinner that evening, overshadowing a hole-in-one achieved by another player.
On May 20, 1980 the Crusaders began their run at The Willow Creek Golf Course, a 7,000-yard, par-71 course that featured large undulating greens, tree-lined fairways and a smattering of water hazards and sand traps littered throughout the challenging.
The Crusaders got off to a slow start to begin their championship run, turning in four scores of 76 from Kline, Stebleton, Stegner and Weixel, which placed them eighth with a team score of 304, 11-shots back of leader California State University Stanislaus at 293. A solid second day led to a two-round total of 602 (+32), which vaulted the Crusaders into a tie for sixth place with two rounds to play.
Wind started to pick up for the third round but not to be deterred, Stebelton and crew posted a respectable 301 to total 903 (+51) through three days of competition to remain in sixth place. The final 18 holes of the 72-hole tournament teed off on Friday, May 23rd with a number of teams in the hunt. As the players made their way to the 17th green they were surprised to see ESPN, a then-fledgling network, set up with a camera between the 17th green and 18th tee with another on the 18th green, filming the final few holes that would determine the 1980 national champion.
The Crusaders put on a good show, shooting their best round of the tournament, a nine-over 293 that moved them up two spots on the leaderboard into fourth place (1,196, +60). Following the season, each member of the team was presented with a plaque and a ring commemorating their OC Championship and their fourth-place NCAA Championship finish.
The success of the 1980 team has been unmatched in the 40 years since. Everything came together for the team with veteran leadership and the unexpected talent brimming in the freshman class, and with a bit of luck, made history.
For the full story on the Athletics website, go to: https://athletics.capital.edu/news/2020/5/18/may-commemorates-40th-anniversary-of-historic-1980-mens-golf-season.aspx
To listen to our discussion of the 1980 men’s golf team on the Athletics podcast Forward, Capital Crusaders! , click here: https://athletics.capital.edu/news/2020/5/19/forward-capital-crusaders-episode-8.aspx
Happy NCA-Anniversary, gentlemen!