Sophomore Evan Thornton felt like a small fish in a big pond last season.
Before his arrival at Temple, Thornton was a three-time Berks County Player of the Year and led Wyomissing Junior/Senior High School to two undefeated seasons and Berks County Championships.
Thornton had a 77.9 stroke average, the fifth lowest on the team, in 30 rounds of golf last season.
“The most important thing I struggled with was understanding that I am good enough to compete at the highest level,” Thornton said. “But now I am used to it. It doesn’t take time to overcome the feeling that you’re the young guy on the team.”
Fellow sophomore Mark Farley, a walk-on, averaged 77.8 strokes per round in his freshman year after joining the team in September 2014. Both Thornton and Farley used the 2014-15 season as a learning experience.
“You definitely think a lot,” Thornton said. “You want to play your own game like you have your own life, but you have to do what’s right for the team and if that means changing then you have to do it.”
Issues with consistency plagued Farley in his first season with the team.
“Last year, I’d have a few good rounds in a tournament and then one round when I kind of blew up and shot a high number,” Farley said. “It can be easy to lose focus and hard to keep that intensity up all year.”
Senior Brandon Matthews said he’s familiar with Farley and Thornton’s frustration but is pleased with what he’s seen from the duo, who combined for six Top 40 finishes last season.
“You kind of just get used to the way things run and you get more comfortable in there,” Matthews said. “Everyone’s developing really well.”
Matthews teaches the underclassmen to stay focused on short-term goals.
“I was just taking it one step at a time and that’s a very important thing for these young kids,” Matthews said. “Not worrying about the development and just worry about what’s in front of you.”
With the departure of two of the team’s three lowest scorers from last year, Farley and Thornton are both poised for bigger roles.
“During freshman year the goal for me was to just shoot a solid number and help the team,” Farley said. “They weren’t really expecting some of the scores that Brandon’s shooting but that’s kind of going to change now and in the future. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I’m looking forward to stepping into that role.”
Despite rising expectations, Thornton said he is more comfortable now that he is a sophomore.
“This year it’s definitely going to be different, less stressful,” Thornton said. “I realize now that not every tournament is a life-or-death situation and you just have to take the punches as they come.”
Greg Frank can be reached at email@example.com.