• Lillie Burke

Staying on course: Van Horne at the NCAA tournament

Belmont golfer Ashton Van Horne made it a goal to improve heading into his junior year.

He did just that with a historic and record-breaking 2014-2015 season.

In May, Van Horne became the first golfer in Belmont history to compete in the NCAA tournament, and he hopes it will open the door for future appearances by other Belmont golfers.

“I think the team’s going to make many trips to the NCAA tournament, and I think we’ll have a lot of players in the future who will qualify individually,” said Van Horne. “We’ve made a lot of baby steps with our program and that’s just one of them.”

Van Horne, a native of Georgetown, Kentucky, initially played golf as a hobby with baseball as his primary sport. However, that changed when Van Horne entered high school.

“My love for baseball was fading; so, I picked up golf and really started to get into it,” said Van Horne. “My senior year, I got really serious about it.”

Belmont men’s golf coach Scott Flynn saw Van Horne play just one round in high school but was impressed by the way he carried himself.

“You could tell by the way he handled himself on the golf course that he was a competitor,” said Flynn. “He was obviously a really good physical tool with some talent.”

Van Horne’s first two years at Belmont brought several impressive accomplishments including a combined 23 rounds of par or better, an All-OVC selection and his first career individual tournament win during his sophomore year.

Despite this success, Van Horne felt like he could still improve and set out to do so for the 2014-2015 season.

“I put a lot of work in to improve my play in the spring because I was not the same player in the spring of my sophomore year that I was in the fall,” said Van Horne. “I was able to have a good season from start to finish, which I was really proud of.”

Van Horne’s record-breaking season would include three individual tournament wins, giving him a school record with four wins for his career.

“Wins at the Division I level are hard to come by; so, to have three in the same year was great,” said Flynn.

Van Horne also set new school records for top-10 finishes and scoring average for a single season.

After a third-place finish in the OVC Championship, Van Horne was invited to play in the NCAA tournament regional in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

“The opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament was a well-deserved opportunity based on his body of work,and he’s had a good summer,” said Flynn. “He’s continued to play and compete.”

In addition to his play in the spring, Van Horne qualified for and played in the 2015 U.S. Amateur Championships in August.

While he didn’t make the cut for the second round, Van Horne said he learned a lot from the experience of playing with other top amateur golfers.

“I learned some things that I need to improve,” said Van Horne. “If I go in with the right approach, I can really play at that elite level.”

Entering his senior year, Van Horne is confident in his team and has his eyes set on a conference championship.

“I like where we are. We’ve got a good group of guys,” said Van Horne. “Hopefully in April we’ll be ready to go to Alabama and play well in the conference championship, which we did last year.”

The men’s golf team tees off the 2015-2016 season on Saturday at the Marshall Invitational in Huntington, West Virginia.

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