If Curt Holcroft has his way, Transylvania University’s decade of dominating the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Golf Championship will be coming to an end.

Holcroft, the second-year Franklin College coach, is confident the Grizzlies have what it takes to end the stranglehold the Pioneers have had on the conference tournament every year since the 2007 season.

All his team has to do is prove it.

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“I would say in our conference right now there are four teams that could win it. If we play the way we should, I think it’s between us and Transy,” Holcroft said. “This is a group that likes that sort of challenge.

“To be the best you’ve got to beat the best, and that’s what we want to do.”

Franklin College is no stranger to league success. The Grizzlies own 10 HCAC titles, including a five-year run from 2002-06.

The 72-hole event stretches over two weekends and includes as many venues — Aston Oaks Golf Club in North Bend, Ohio (near Cincinnati), on April 29 and 30; and Hulman Links Golf Course in Terre Haute on May 6 and 7.

Holcroft is a former Grizzlies player who returned to his alma mater after coaching the Franklin Community High School boys golf program for nine seasons and the Grizzly Cub girls for seven.

Making the transition to collegiate golf at the Division III level proved an eye-opening experience.

“When I coached high school golf, I always thought we could compete with some of the smaller colleges. I was absolutely wrong,” Holcroft said, laughing. “The biggest differences are a player’s maturity and sheer strength.

“But we brought in a good freshman group this year, so I knew the potential was there to have a good season.”

Coming off last weekend’s sixth-place finish at the Defiance Spring Invitational, the Grizzlies have carded sub-300 team scores on three occasions during the fall and spring seasons.

Franklin College won the Hanover Invitational at Shadowood GC in Seymour April 8 and 9. Colton Kuppler, one of three freshmen in Holcraft’s lineup, picked up medalist honors with a 1-over-par score of 145.

Another freshman, former Center Grove golfer Jackson Williams, helped lead the Trojans to a third-place finish at the 2016 state finals.

After an outstanding fall season in which he played the No. 2 spot much of the way, Williams presently is at No. 5. His 18-hole stroke average of 76.9 puts him behind classmate Kuppler (76.3) and ahead of another frosh, Nathan Higbie (81.4).

Junior Spencer Portish (77.5) is another of the team’s mainstays. The Grizzlies roster also includes two former Franklin High players in sophomores Jacob Hash (78.8) and Donald Morefield.

The college grind is different than high school. Regular-season tournaments typically are two days.

“The travel is fun, and it’s just a new level of golf. The season has been really good so far,” Williams said. “I thought Center Grove did a good job of preparing us to go to the next level by having us compete for spots every day in practice.”

By the numbers

Franklin College’s top men’s golfers this spring entering the HCAC Championship, which will stretch over the next two weekends:

Player;Rounds;Avg

Sam Godby;6;73.0

Colton Kuppler;11;76.3

Jackson Williams;11;76.9

Spencer Portish;8;77.5

Jacob Hash;7;78.81

Nathan Higbie;8;81.4

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.