The Point Park University men's golf team has been perfect this spring ... three tournaments, three victories.
But each of those events, all the indoor shots taken in the golf dome at RMU Island Sports Center, all the chip shots taken during practice rounds at Quicksilver Golf Club, they were all just a prelude to the Pioneers' upcoming event.
Point Park travels to Richmond, Ky., Monday to compete in the two-day Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship tournament at Gibson Bay Golf Course. The winner receives an automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament.
"We want to win every tournament, I have a very competitive group of guys," Point Park coach Gabe Bubon said. "Big picture, they know where we've come from and where we are now. It's just getting it done. They know what's at stake."
Where the Pioneers have come from is from non-existent to the cusp of national exposure in just four short years.
Point Park competed in men's golf for five years from 1966-71, but dropped the program after the 1971 season. Included in that little spurt was a third-place finish in the 1969 NAIA tournament, the Pioneers' only exposure to the national golf scene.
After a 37-year hiatus, Point Park started its program once again in 2009 and three years later captured the American Mideast Conference title last season. But there was no automatic berth into the national tournament due to a shortage of competing teams, and the Pioneers failed to advance through a qualifier.
Point Park left the AMC and joined the KIAC at the beginning of the 2012 academic year and is competing in the KIAC for the first time.
"We're ecstatic about it because when we were in the AMC, Malone University was always ranked in the top 10 nationally," Bubon said. "Their top five guys are all shooting under par and that's hard to compete with. Last year Malone wasn't in it and we won the conference championship but there wasn't an automatic bid.
"Now that we have a conference with an automatic bid, we're excited about it. We still have some good golf but there are no nationally ranked teams. We feel real comfortable playing in it."
Helping the Pioneers emerge as a conference favorite is junior Chris Bowen, a graduate of Bethel Park High School.
Bowen is averaging 76.47 per round this year through seven events and finished tied for first overall in the Cedarville Invitational April 4-5 at Beavercreek Country Club in Beavercreek, Ohio, the team's second event this spring. Bowen shot a 75-74 for a two-day total of 5-over 149 for his first career victory.
"I give Chris a lot of credit. Last year he was our sixth man and just couldn't crack the top five," Bubon said. "He really worked hard, hit the weight room hard and it really paid off for him. In college athletics you like to see a guy who does it the right way, doesn't complain. He just worked his butt off and his game has come a long way.
"We call Chris the king of up and downs. He can get up and down with his wedge and make a putt. He does it very often and that's one of the reasons why he's been shooting so well."
Also shooting well for the Pioneers are senior Austin Elder (76.36 avg.), sophomore Collin Holmes (77.13), junior James Daley (77.36) and senior Billy Wivell (76.87), a graduate of Deer Lakes.
On the verge of cracking the top five, Bubon said, is junior Steve Veydt (78.63), a graduate of Canon-McMillan.
After opening the spring season March 29-30 with a 21-shot victory in the Berea College Spring Tee-Off event at Battlefield Golf Club in Richmond, Ky., the Pioneers traveled to Beavercreek, Ohio, April 4-5 and won the Cedarville Invitational at Beavercreek Country Club by six shots and then took Carnegie Mellon's Edward Jones Shootout April 13-14 at The Links at Spring Church near Apollo by one shot over Allegheny College.
Now the Pioneers have turned their attention to the KIAC tournament in Kentucky.
"From what we saw in the conference, if we just go out and play good golf we're going to have a good chance," Bubon said. "At the end of the day, the guys have to go out there and get it done. They know that.
"There's going to be pressure but we've been talking about this since last summer, having a chance to make it to the national tournament, just getting our name on the map. Only being around for four years, those first couple years we've had some tough roads. We had some big scores. If they go out there and just play their game, I think we have a pretty good shot at it."
Rick Davis: email@example.com or 412-263-3789.