CHAMPAIGN — The weather is getting nicer. Days are getting longer.
It’s a good time to go play some golf, right?
For Corbin Sebens and his Parkland men’s golf program, the answer is undeniably “yes.”
Sebens, a proud Monticello graduate who shined playing for the Cobras and then Eastern Illinois, has Parkland once again among the best NJCAA Division II programs in the country.
All the Cobras have done since their season resumed last fall and continued on this spring is win six of the eight tournaments they’ve entered, proving Mike Small’s standout Illini men’s golf program isn’t the only noteworthy college golf team in Champaign. Sebens has the Cobras rolling, too, even without a home course or fancy practice facility located near the Parkland campus off Bradley Avenue.
“This year’s team is very deep one through seven,” Sebens said. “We have had three different guys win tournaments this season, which is a huge testament to the competition we do every day in practice. Having a season has required them to make sacrifices and pretty much not have a social life.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is the main cause of that, meaning the seven-man roster comprised of Jack Halstead, Matt Leist, Corey Neville, Scott O’Brien, Joel Petersson, Rhys Wallace and Alex White has led a pretty isolated existence outside of golf.
“It’s school, temperature checks, workouts, temperature checks, golf and then back to the apartments,” Sebens said. “They know not to take anything for granted because the season could end suddenly.”
Fresh off winning the Mid-West Athletic Conference championship this past Monday at Champaign Country Club, the Cobras turn their attention this weekend to the Region 24 tournament.
Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield is the site for the 72-hole event that starts Sunday and ends Tuesday. It’s an eight-team field, with the top two teams advancing to the NJCAA D-II national tournament held May 18-21 at Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth, Ind.
Parkland is aiming for its fourth straight trip to the national tournament after qualifying in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with the Cobras finishing in the top five during their last two appearances. It’s a tradition Sebens wants to maintain, especially since he took over the Cobras’ program in 2014 following the death of former coach Zach McNabney from colon cancer.
Sebens still carries lessons learned from his time playing for and coaching with McNabney.
“When I graduated college and came back to help Coach McNabney out while he was battling his health issues, I did not know what I was getting myself into,” Sebens said. “The short time we worked together, he taught me so much about coaching, as well as life in general. When I was offered the job as a young 23-year-old right out of college, I would have been lost if it wasn’t for the lessons he taught me while playing for him and coaching with him.
“My goal when I took over was that I wanted to keep the successful tradition every year that he established, as well as move our players on to four-year universities after two years.”
He’s done just that, with Parkland showing no signs of slowing down on the golf course. Sebens wants that determination to be prevalent during the Cobras’ upcoming stay in Springfield.
“We need to keep the same mindset we have had all season,” he said, “and stay locked in.”
Matt Daniels is the sports editor at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-373-7422 or at email@example.com.