By Joel Muhs
It’s been 29 years since the iconic 1992 Olympic men’s basketball Dream Team has been in the spotlight, but Hutchinson Community College has developed a dream of their own, except this go-around it’s out on the links instead of the court.
The HutchCC golf team is in rarified air and has come into the 2021-2022 season with plenty of momentum and motivation after winning seven of their last eight tournaments dating back to last season, which has earned the Blue Dragons a dream-team type status.
“A dream team,” HutchCC golf coach Chris Young said with a laugh about the Dream Team comparison. “Well first of all, they’re just good golfers. The caliber of golfers I have on my team right now is maybe a little bit better than we’ve had in the past. It’s one of those things where they are all on the same level and they push each other to practice hard.”
The Blue Dragons return a star-studded roster from the prior season, and even though there is plenty of firepower throughout the roster, the chemistry remains intact and allows HutchCC to compete at the highest level.
“I think it’s mainly to do with team chemistry,” sophomore HutchCC golfer Harry Crockett said. “It’s just so strong, especially from last year. Obviously we got quite a few guys from last year going into this year, so we still got that team chemistry there and they’ve just kind of molded the new guys in.”
After winning the school’s first national golf title to end last season, HutchCC returns valuable leadership with sophomores Ben Partridge and Crockett, who both earned NJCAA first-team All-American at the end of last season and look to repeat as champions once more.
“It’s very helpful for a coach anytime you have kids back that were really good last year and they know how to teach the kids how to do things the right way,” Young said. “Coach can maybe take a backseat and let the kids handle things more than having to get involved in certain situations.”
HutchCC has enjoyed a plethora of success over the past two seasons, which has led to lofty expectations coming into the new season.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of pressure there, but I don’t think we’re thinking about that to be honest,” Crockett said about repeating as national champions. “We’re just going to go out and play golf and try and do our best and see what happens. As long as we do the right things on and off the golf course, then we should be alright.”
Much like the 1992 Dream Team, the Blue Dragons have been dominant over the past two seasons, which included the seven-straight tournament victories. Although Young is 22 seasons deep into his tenure as the HutchCC golf coach, this Blue Dragon team ranks among the top he’s seen during his time in NJCAA golf.
“I’d say that they’ve got to be one of the top three-five teams that I’ve seen over the years,” Young said. “I think there’s been a couple times in those 22 years that teams have won it back-to-back. I think Odessa did it once and I think McLennan did it once, and maybe Indian Hills. It’s one of the better teams I’ve seen. Last (season) at the national tournament, we never trailed, and I don’t know if that’s ever happened, somebody leading wire-to-wire.”
Although the talent level might not measure up to the 1992 Dream Team, the HutchCC golf team has reached new heights over the past two seasons. However, Young said it’s not always as smooth as the Blue Dragon’s record may suggest.
“You’d think it would be all rainbows and butterflies, but sometimes it’s not,” Young said. “You still get stressed out, and they still don’t do everything the way you’d want them to do it, on and off the course. It’s a lot of teaching still, but it’s also you’re maybe having a little more talented crew than maybe you’ve had 10 years ago.”
The 1992 Dream Team rightfully earned their respect, which firmly placed them as the top basketball team in history. Although the HutchCC golf team may not last two minutes on the court with Michael Jordan and company, the Blue Dragons have earned respect not only on the golf course, but within their school and community as well.
“I think it’s joyful for me, I think it’s fun for the community and it’s fun for our school,” Young said. “We’re not one of the major sports, but I think everybody kind of knows where we’re at. We’re just kind of enjoying it right now.”