- June 9, 2021
At week’s end hundreds of graduating Penn College students will walk across the stage at the Community Arts Center and receive their well-earned diploma catapulting them into the awaiting business world. At the same time classmates and members of the Wildcats North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) championship golf team will be competing for NCAA Division
At week’s end hundreds of graduating Penn College students will walk across the stage at the Community Arts Center and receive their well-earned diploma catapulting them into the awaiting business world. At the same time classmates and members of the Wildcats North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) championship golf team will be competing for NCAA Division III hardware at the men’s golf national championships in Wheeling, West Virginia.
The Wildcat linksters became Penn College’s first team to compete for a national title as the result of winning the NEAC title with a two-stroke victory over Rutgers University-Camden in the six-team field played at Dauphin Highlands Golf Course two weeks ago. Sophomore Kohltin Bartlow, of Montgomery, with a two-round low score of 154, earning him the conference’s Golfer of the Year award. Penn College coach Matt Haile picked up the honors as the NEAC coach of the year.
In describing the history-making victory Coach Haile was thrilled and excited
“It has left me very proud of the team and the program and obviously trying to come down from the high we experienced from winning the NEAC and preparing them for the next challenge that waits at the Division III championships. We are keeping our eyes on the prize while learning what to expect when we get there. Our first goal is to have fun and number two to make the cut on the second day and be one of those eighteen teams that advance. If we don’t advance as a team, it would be great to see one of our individuals play well enough to move on.
“It means a lot to us. It was an emotional win. I’ve thought about all the guys that have come through our program and helped shape it into what it is today. Since we went to the NCAA Division III level a few years ago it has been a goal of mine to get a team that can advance to the championship. I never experienced that as a player, but as a coach to see all their excitement in their eyes, I was ecstatic and thrilled for that. It puts us on the map. I hope that it opens people’s eyes and some of those golfers coming out of high school will consider coming to Penn College.
“Our baseball team was the first to win a conference championship in our Divisional status. We are the first to win a golf championship and advance to play for a national title. Coming into the season I thought we had a good chance to have an interesting finish and they did just that.”
Haile graduated from Shikellamy High School and from Penn College in 2006 with a degree in data communications and networking. He is employed as a network engineer at Penn College and became the school’s golf coach in 2009. He and wife, Dana are the parents of a 5-year-old son.
He credits his grandfather with developing his interest in golf.
“My father didn’t play golf, but the game started with my grandfather. He brought some clubs to the house and we just fooled around hitting the ball in the backyard. As I got older he took me to various golf courses. He just recently passed away, but even at 98 he was still swinging a golf club, so he was a huge influence in my life. He would have been thrilled by what the team accomplished.”
Getting his players to develop a competitive mindset and believe in themselves has been Haile’s biggest challenge in his coaching tenure.
“Golf is a game of failure, so developing the mental approach to overcome a bad shot and gain an understanding of course management is very important. It is the guys who can put a bad hole behind them and keep moving forward who will be successful on any given day.”
Bartlow’s NEAC championship effort was huge but not unexpected by his coach.
“He is the most level-headed, structured player that I have coached thus far at Penn College. I knew of Kohltin when he was younger and playing for Montgomery High School and seeing him play at the White Deer course. I had some conversations about him coming to Penn College but he chose to go to Bloomsburg. After spending a year there he decided to transfer to Penn College. He is very dedicated about his golf game and travels to Philadelphia to work with a golf professional. He has a game plan and works very hard on improving his game.
Before leaving for West Virginia for the D-III championships, where 44 teams will be competing – preparation was on Haile’s mind.
“We’ve had a successful year but there are always things we can improve upon. One of the big things for a player to master is his understanding of each upcoming shot and the percentages of executing that shot successfully. For each player that process is different and we want them to anticipate those situations before they actually hit the shot. Then we continue to stress the very nature of the game, putting, chipping, and shots from 100 yards and in.”
With Penn College golf on the upswing Haile had this message for high school students contemplating college.
“We are still dealing with the tech school stigma, but what I thoroughly enjoy about teaching at the school is we have welders, we have AC technicians, construction management students and they still go out and compete with the traditional college students studying accounting, business and law; your traditional golfers in a sense. I would urge students to look at the courses we offer and the job placement percentages of our graduates. Having a golf program here at Penn College is a bonus for those students interested in obtaining one of the many degree programs we offer.”