By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech golf coach Polk Brown announced the annual postseason awards for the Golden Eagle men's squad Thursday, with four student-athletes taking home honors for the 2020-21 season.
Rookie Mark McDearman was named the team's Gilbert Darcy Most Valuable Player while sophomore Sean Anderson took home the Most Improved Player Award. Claiming the Coach's Award was junior Chance Taylor while the Bobby Nichols Award for Leadership went to sophomore Nick Sutton.
McDearman became the first freshman in program history to earn Gilbert Darcy MVP honors after claiming a spot on the All-Ohio Valley Conference Team and OVC All-Newcomer Team. The Lebanon, Tenn. native led the purple and gold in scoring average by nearly a full stroke, capturing a 72.42.
The scoring average represented the lowest by a Golden Eagle since PGA Tour pro Scott Stallings posted a 70.9 following his senior season in 2006-07. It also represented the lowest scoring average by a Tech freshman in program history. The rookie earned to top-10 finishes on the year, including tying for sixth place at the OVC Championships. He turned in a season-low 214 at the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate in his collegiate debut.
"For a freshman to come in, during a pandemic year, only get to play in the spring and then make both the All-OVC Team and OVC Newcomer Team is remarkable," Brown explained. "He adjusted to the rigors of being a student-athlete very well. His grades were exemplary and his golf pretty much spoke for itself.
"I think he only shot one score above a 75 all semester. He was just very consistent, very dependable and always had a great attitude on the course. He's very easy to coach and for him to earn the Gilbert Darcy MVP Award in his first year shows that the future is extremely bright for this young man. He just needs to continue to do what he's been doing and want to keep improving each year, which I know he does."
The team's Most Improved Player, Anderson competed in two of Tech's six events during the shortened 2020-21 season, tying his career-low score over 54 holes with a 225 at the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate. He also turned in his career-low round on the year, firing a 71 in the third and final round of the Big Blue Intercollegiate to complete a 226. Overall, the Jonesborough, Tenn. native finished the year with a 75.17 scoring average.
"Sean has been an ultimate team player from the moment he stepped on this campus two falls ago and he has shown vast improvement in all areas," Brown said. "He's a great student, a fine young man and has made great changes to his body in terms of taking care of himself and the strength and conditioning aspect of being a student-athlete.
"The golf has followed suit. He's done really well and is an extremely hard worker. He wants to get better and that has shown with his progress in just this past year alone."
Taylor was a constant presence in the Tech lineup throughout the season, taking part in five of the team's six tournaments on his way to earning the Coach's Award. The Gate City, Va. native carded his best career showing at this year's Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate, ripping off a 72-72-71=215 to tie for 11th overall. He also collected a top-25 finish at the OVC Championships with a 223.
"In the three years that he's been here, Chance has been just a joy to coach," Brown expressed. "He's so respectful, kind and an overall great kid with a big heart. He's shown that for three years, but this spring especially showed what he's made of. He handled some of the adversities he's had to deal with in his own life far better than I ever would have and probably better than most people I know.
"He's been such a great example for the guys on the team and he's never made any excuses. He just goes out there and gets done what he needs to do. I'm extremely proud to have him as a part of this program and am so excited to have him back for at least one, if not two more years."
A native of Matthews, N.C. and the team's Bobby Nichols Award for Leadership winner, Sutton competed in five of the men's six tournaments on the year while establishing a scoring average of 75.80. The youngster collected his first career All-Tournament honors after tying for fifth overall at the Bobby Nichols Intercollegiate, delivering a career-best 212, backed by a season-low 68 in the third and final round.
"I've been doing this for 10 years now, going on 11, and I've coached very few guys that have the contagious energy that Nick consistently brings to the table," Brown explained. "It permeates throughout not just the men's team, but both programs. I'm very thankful for that.
"Whatever has been thrown his way, he's handled it with class and positivity that exudes leadership. He was instrumental in us getting through this past year and the challenges of a pandemic, and we look forward to seeing him continue to grow."
The Gilbert Darcy MVP Award and the Most Improved Player Award have both been presented since 1994. Last season, the Coach's Award and Bobby Nichols Award for Leadership were established for the first time, replacing a few other honors from the past.
The Coach's Award goes to the player displaying the best attitude, most dedication and biggest impact to the team for the given year. The Bobby Nichols Award for Leadership, named after the late, Hall of Fame head coach, is presented to the player who has shown and provided the most leadership on the team during the given year.