ATLANTA – When Mark Power arrived at Wake Forest this fall as a freshman from Kilkenny, Ireland, he was warned that college golf wasn’t going to be easy.
“The standard here is so good,” said Power, who nearly made the GB&I Walker Cup team this summer and is currently No. 59 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “Everyone was telling me, 'Don’t be expecting too much; there are a lot of guys here who can play.' I just tried to stay relaxed, stay patient and have the mindset: If you play good, it will happen.”
It didn’t take long. In just his fourth college start, Power won the individual title Monday at the East Lake Cup, sinking a birdie putt at East Lake’s par-5 18th hole to shoot 5-under 67 and win by two shots over Texas teammates Pierceson Coody and Travis Vick.
“It feels a little bit crazy at the minute,” Power said. “I find myself wanting to pinch myself because I can’t believe it’s happened.”
Power’s victory wasn’t totally surprising. He was coming off his second top-10 of the fall, a T-3 at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate. Power, whose parents each won three Irish national amateur titles, knew that if the putter heated up, he’d have a good chance at East Lake.
The patience certainly paid off, but Power wasn’t the only Demon Deacons player to pick up their first college win. On the women’s side, sophomore Vanessa Knecht shared the individual title with Duke senior Ana Belac after posting a 3-under 69. Both players birdied their final hole.
Knecht, though, entered East Lake with two straight finishes outside the top 40. Wake coach Kim Lewellen said Knecht had been hard at work these past two weeks trying to iron out her swing.
She reaped the benefits on Monday, especially off the tee, avoiding East Lake’s treacherous rough.
“I tried to stay confident,” Knecht said, “and not worry too much and let it happen.”
And like Power, Knecht has now found herself in the winner’s circle.