Ex-CC star feels fortunate for another shot on links
For most of the athletes that lost the 2020 spring sports season, it’s a year they can never get back.
In high school, seniors have graduated. Even in college, where many seniors have been granted an extra year of eligibility, they have chosen to move on with their lives.
But IUP senior golfer Jeremy Eckenrode is in a unique situation.
If everything goes according to plan, he will basically get a re-do of his lost season. He was the only senior on his team, one that IUP coach Dan Braun thought was very talented.
“We didn’t get to play this spring, which is a shame, because we had high hopes,” Braun said. “Our ultimate goal was to play at the NCAA championships, which I firmly believe we would have qualified for. I felt so bad for the players, and I really felt bad for Jeremy, because we thought it was the end of the road for him.”
Soon after the announcement, however, another was made that spring sports athletes would be granted another year of eligibility, even Eckenrode, who had competed during IUP’s fall golf season.
“Fortunately, we all got that extra year,” Eckenrode said. “I’m going to take advantage of that by going to grad school at IUP and playing another year of golf. It wasn’t really my plan, but I didn’t have a job lined up yet. In March, my coach floated the idea that if I wanted to go to grad school, I could come back and be a volunteer graduate assistant coach. That got me thinking about grad school. I wasn’t sure if I would do it, but once this all happened, it was an easy decision.”
Eckenrode, who finished up his finance major this year, will be going back for a master’s degree in business administration.
Having Eckenrode back to help lead next year’s squad was always something Braun wanted. He’s thrilled the Central Cambria graduate can do it as a player instead of as a coach.
“He leads by example,” Braun said. “His poise and maturity are unrivaled. Everyone that knows him respects him. Having his leadership with a relatively still young team is great. To have someone like Jeremy pave the way and set an example is important. He will help groom the next leaders of the program.”
Eckenrode finished the shortened season ranked No. 4 in the Atlantic Region rankings and was named first-team All-PSAC and PING All-Atlantic Region.
“He’s gotten a lot more consistent the last few years,” Braun said. “He’s always had determination and worked on his game, and it has really paid off.”
Eckenrode’s stroke average has dropped every year since he’s been at IUP, and he was also first team PING All-Atlantic Region as a junior.
“Next year, we can pick up right where we left off,” Eckenrode said. “We can learn from this year, and I’ll be a good leader for the guys. I’ll show them the right way to do things through the maturity I have gained playing at this level.”
Braun said there’s no player to better lead his team than Eckenrode, who won the District 6 Class 2A individual golf championship in 2013 and 2015.
“I have known Jeremy since he was 15,” Braun said. “I was the golf professional at Indiana Country Club for 27 years. I first met him when he came down for a club fitting, and I got to know him and his dad. He’s the same person now that he was then. He’s one of the nicest young men I have ever had the opportunity to coach or be around.”