Big Game finalist for big award

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A Missouri Western athlete is competing in an event. The crowd is hushed, and all his concentration is being put into this next shot. He strikes the ball well. One of his best shots of the evening. Then, the crowd erupts. Surprised, the young man looks over to the side only to see nearly 100 Missouri Western athletes cheering in excitement.

This is what it was like for Missouri Western golfers during their home tournament on Oct. 8. Not football. Not basketball or baseball. Golf.

All the athletes were there to participate in the first ever Big Game Event. The Big Game Event was an idea brought to Missouri Western for athletes to show their support for one another. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) organized the event which included a tailgate and designated watch areas across the course.

“We got compliments from all the schools saying how awesome it was to see that many athletes at a golf tournament,” Madeline Cowell. Vice president of SAAC said. “It shows Missouri Western athletes and the community care about the school and are all very proud to go here.”

After a video was made by Griffon Sports Insider displaying the event, the Big Game Event started to receive some national attention. Missouri Western has been named a finalist for the 2019 Division II Excellence Award. The Award of Excellence is presented for an activity or event that exemplifies excellence in community engagement efforts. Monetary prizes are given for first ($1,500), second ($1,250) and third place ($1,000), while all finalists from one winner in each of the 24 Division II conferences receives $500. The winners will be announced on Jan. 26.

While the Big Game Event is not an idea unique to Missouri Western, the decision to support golf is what SAAC advisor and Executive Producer of Video and Digital Media Ryan Menley believes is what caught the national media attention.

“You can do a Big Game for basketball, but there are fans at basketball. There’s not fans for golf,” Menley said. “We wanted to make (The Big Game Event) a special day for our men’s golf student-athletes, and I think if you talk to them, they’ll say it was pretty special.”

Head coach of the golf team, Greg Dillon, loved the turnout for his athletes and was extremely happy his team got to experience it.

“It was such a special special event to watch and see our kids supported that way,” Dillon said. “To see the support (the team) all had, and it’s coming from the ground roots level. It was just overwhelmingly humble for us to have that kind of support.”

The athletes that attended the Big Game Event witnessed the men’s golf team finish second in their home tournament, the Holiday Inn Express Classic. They did not finish higher than eighth in any of their other tournaments during the fall. They also saw junior Lucas Horseman win individually after shooting a 67 on the course. It was an excellent showing by the golf team which is fitting due to the Excellence Award their fans have been nominated for coming out to support them.

The Division II Excellence Award started in 2014, and this is already Missouri Western’s second time being nominated out of the MIAA. The first was for a Blood Marrow Drive back in 2016. Missouri Western has continued to show they care for the community, and it starts with the bond the student-athletes have.

“We have a very active and very impressive Student Advisory Committee,” Menley said. “It’s very community service oriented, and that’s contagious. They set the tone and when they set the tone it trickles down and has spread into the support within the university and especially within the athletic department. People say it’s like a big family which is a cliché, but it’s true.”