After playing a practice round with freshman Mark Farley, freshman Evan Thornton texted assistant coach Devin Bibeau with his thoughts.
“He is the guy,” Thornton wrote of Farley.
Following the team’s first two tournaments, coach Brian Quinn was in search of a new golfer to fill in the No. 5 spot. He gave the walk-on a chance, and it has since paid dividends.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Farley has placed an average 40th among tournament competition and highlighted his fall season when he finished in an eighth-place tie at the Temple Invitational Oct. 11-12.
“Mark Farley is very untapped,” Quinn said. “He has a ton of ability, a ton of talent and very raw … once he really learns how to swing the golf club, he is going to be unbelievable.”
When Farley joined the team, he said he didn’t expect to see much playing time off the bat.
“I didn’t think in my first semester I would see much playing time, if any,” Farley said.
Even his teammates said they didn’t expect this much early success from the freshman.
“When we came in, we didn’t even think Mark would crack the Top 5 and now he is the low man for us when we needed a low man,” Thornton said.
The pair of Farley and Thornton, who has an average finish of 46th place and a high finish of 13th, has brought stability to the team’s lineup. At the Temple Invitational, Thornton and Farley both finished in the Top 15 to help the team capture their first tournament championship since 2013. Last season alone, Temple did not have its fourth or fifth man finish any higher than 25th place.
“They have done more than their job,” Matthews said. “We weren’t expecting that to happen, so we are getting more out of them than we were expecting.”
For Thornton, this opportunity has been a long time coming. Last year, the Wyomissing, Pennsylvania native was ready to play golf at Delaware, but decided against it. He took the year off and went down to Florida to practice at The Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy.
“It helped me become a better player,” Thornton said. “When I went there, I was 6-foot-2 [inches], 155 [pounds] and now I’m 6-foot-2, 182 [pounds].”
For the two, the transition into the starting lineup was made easier by their team’s experience. Matthews, along with seniors Pat Ross and Matt Teesdale all have at least three years of collegiate golf experience and have acted as mentors to the freshmen.
“I can’t imagine not having guys like that to look out for me and to just befriend me and really take me under their wing,” Farley said.
While working with the two, Quinn has noticed a special quality in the two that he said can help them in will help them develop into golfers than can help them immediately and even more in the future.
“What you really want to look at is the fearlessness in them and both of these kids are fearless,” Quinn said. “They are not afraid to fail and that is the greatest gift you could have.”
Matthews has seen the same qualities in the pair.
“There might be other freshmen in the country, but not these kids,” Matthews said. “They have a winning, fighting, good personality.”
With one tournament left before the team’s season ends until the spring, Thornton knows he has plenty to work on. Outside of his Temple Invitational result, he has two finishes outside the Top 50.
With one tournament left before the team concludes its fall season, Thornton knows he has plenty to work on in order to keep his place in the Top 5.
“[Quinn] wants me to be shooting lower scores,” Thornton said. “He said, ‘I know you are a freshman … you need to start shooting lower scores.’”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @MikeG2511