By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Junior Matthew Giles and senior Allyson Dunn were honored as the 2017-18 Most Valuable Players for the Tennessee Tech men's and women's golf teams, as Tennessee Tech head golf coach Polk Brown announced the postseason awards for the Golden Eagle squads.
Giles earned his first Gilbert Darcy MVP honor for the men's team while Dunn captured her third straight MVP selection as a member of the women's team. Giles also captured team honors for Low Average and Best Putter.
"Matthew really stepped up to the plate as far as performance on the golf course is concerned," Brown said. "He was very dedicated and wanted to be one of the best players on the team. It really showed in his performance in the spring. He really came on strong during a time when it can be a struggle coming back from break. He improved dramatically and we're excited to have him back for one more year.
"Allyson's body of work for the three years she was here kind of speaks for itself, as far as what she did in the classroom and on the golf course. She did so great with school and her overall performance on the course while she was here really stands out. She set a great standard for women who are coming up through the program over the next few years."
Representing the men's team as captain for the second straight year was senior A.J. Wilkerson. The fifth-year man took part in 10 of the team's 12 events throughout the year and ended his long career with a 75.48 scoring average.
"We're definitely going to miss A.J.'s leadership," Brown explained. "Being here for five years, he was a guy that the rest of the team could turn to. He was someone that we as coaches could speak with about different things with the team. He brought a great presence to the golf course every day and was ready to work and put the time in. A.J. did an outstanding job with the whole group both on the course and in the classroom."
Dunn served as team co-captain for the second year in-a-row, sharing the duties with junior Hollee Sadler. Dunn, who also earned the team honors for Low Average, Best Putter and Long Hitter, ended her three-year Golden Eagle career with the lowest scoring average in program history, a mark of 76.98. The senior veteran recorded three top-10 finishes on the year, including a third-place showing at the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate to earn All-Tournament honors. Sadler posted a 79.52 scoring average while participating in every event on the year. She nabbed a top-10 finish at the Chris Banister Golf Classic.
"Allyson and Hollee were both definitely hard workers on the course and put the time in in the classroom to be successful," Brown said. The team recognized that and tried to emulate the type of work they both displayed each day."
Freshmen Will Brooks and Bracton Womack shared the Impact Award for the men's team, bursting onto the scene with spectacular debuts in the purple and gold. The two rookies finished second and third, respectively, in scoring on the year, with Brooks holding a slight advantage of 74.25 to Womack's 74.40. Brooks, earned three top-10 finishes and two All-Tournament honors (highlighted with a fifth-place finish at the OVC Championships) while setting the program's freshman scoring mark with a 66 in the second round of the MTSU Intercollegiate. Womack earned a spot on the All-OVC Newcomer Team while posting two top-10 and one top-five finish. Both players sported the lowest scoring averages for a Tech freshman in over a decade.
"Will and Bracton did a great job this year," Brown expressed. "They really set the standard for new players coming in for the future. I can't really say enough about what each of them brought to the table and they're a big part of the reason the team had some of the success it had this year. To be able to have them for the next few years is excellent. If they keep working the way they have been and continue to make improvements, they are going to be a tough duo to beat every time we go out there."
On the women's side, freshman Kate Mashburn was named the Impact Award winner after partipating in seven events and compiling a scoring average of 80.33. She finished in the top-25 of four tournaments, including the OVC Championships where she fired a first-round 74.
"Kate played in over half of our tournaments this year and to qualify for conference and play the way she did that first day was pretty impressive," Brown said. "She is just an awesome young lady and very coachable. She's always excited to play and practice and she's such a joy to be around. I think she is going to be a leader on the team for the next few years."
The Most Improved Player awards went to sophomores Cameron Yeary and Shelby Johnson. Yeary shaved more than a full stroke off his scoring average from his rookie season, turning in a mark of 75.69. He ended the year with a splash, firing scores of 72 and 67 in the first two rounds of the OVC Championships, finishing in 22nd overall. Johnson went from playing in just four events as a redshirt freshman to competing in all 10 tournaments this season, also trimming over a full shot from her scoring average. She concluded the year with four top-25 finishes and a 79.11 average.
"From last year to this past year, Cameron and Shelby both really made some good strides as far as their games are concerned," Brown explained. "Both have great work ethics on the course and have a good head about them in their preparation and when they play during tournaments. They compose themselves very well. If you look at the stats from 2016-17 to 2017-18, you can definitely see some improvement there. They certainly have earned these honors."
Johnson also claimed the women's team's Most Dedicated Player honor while the men's award went to senior Alexander Riddle. Riddle ended his four-year career with a 76.06 scoring average, including a 75.50 mark this season. He notched two All-Tournament honors on the year, placing fourth in the Samford Intercollegiate and Grover Page Classic.
"Shelby's improvement this year came from being one of if not the most dedicated player on the team," Brown said. "She was always at practice, working hard, focused on what she was doing, coachable, always willing to listen and take constructive criticism. She was always ready to work when she came to the course and never complained. It really shows as she has improved a lot over the past two years.
"What I can I say about Alexander. Pretty much for his entire career he was one of the most dedicated players on the team. He brought a great work ethic with him that I think was contagious for the rest of the guys. I think the team looked to him for guidance on how to practice and go about doing things to prepare for tournaments."
Dabney Dickenson was named the Long Hitter for the men's team for the second straight year.
Most Valuable Player: Matthew Giles, Allyson Dunn
Most Improved Player: Cameron Yeary, Shelby Johnson
Most Dedicated Player: Alexander Riddle, Shelby Johnson
Impact Award: Will Brooks, Bracton Womack, Kate Mashburn
Low Average: Matthew Giles, Allyson Dunn
Best Putter: Matthew Giles, Allyson Dunn
Long Hitter: Dabney Dickenson, Allyson Dunn
Team Captain: A.J. Wilkerson, Allyson Dunn, Hollee Sadler
Photos by Thomas Corhern