Troy’s Bart Barnes will remember April 16 for rest of life

Published 9:44 pm Monday, April 21, 2014

Bart Barnes and the Troy Women’s golf team won the Sun Belt title last week. (Photo/Troy Athletics)

Bart Barnes and the Troy Women’s golf team won the Sun Belt title last week. (Photo/Troy Athletics)

Bart Barnes went to sleep last Tuesday night with a lot on his mind. He had guided his team to the brink of a conference title, but yet his heart was back at home.

Barnes, head coach of the Troy women’s golf team, awoke Wednesday morning and prepared for the tournament. His thoughts were at home, but he had business to finish.

Instead of packing his bags and making the trip back to his parent’s home between Opp and Elba, Barnes strapped on his golf shoes and went to the course.

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Over the next few hours, Barnes’ team would make shot after shot en route to the Sun Belt Conference Championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament field. After the round, Barnes was given the news his grandfather, who he loved dearly, had passed away.

While he didn’t know why at the time, Barnes couldn’t help but get a little emotional at certain points during the final round last week.

“I will always look back on that day and smile,” said Barnes. “At one point during the day, I just got a sense of calm over me, knowing someone was there with me. I will always think about the good times we had together, and then I will think about that day in Loxley. My grandfather was with me that day step for step, and he was with us in spirit the entire way.”

Troy entered the final day of competition with a six shot lead over Texas State, and hit big shots down the stretch to take home the title.

“We were about halfway done on the final day, and I saw a look in each one of their eyes,” said Barnes. “It was a look of relaxed confidence. We played 15, 16 and 17 very well, so that allowed me to take that walk to 18 and be happy. It was a short walk where I thought about a lot of things, but enjoyed every step of it.”

The overall title was not the only championship Troy brought home.

Fatima Fernandez Cano took the individual win by defeating Texas State’s Marie Puisite on the first playoff hole. On the playoff hole, Puisite’s tee shot found the water, while Cano sent hers perfectly down the fairway.

Cano made par on the hole to take the title.

“She was so amped up that she drove the ball a good 20 yards farther than she did in regulation,” said Barnes. “She was ready for the moment. She has been so close on a few occasions this spring, and was prepared to make it count. It was an awesome way to end the day.”

The 2014 Sun Belt Conference title puts a stamp on what has been a memorable season for Barnes. Barnes was promoted to head coach in August of last year after serving for three seasons as an assistant. The Troy women fired the best team round in over a decade in September en route to a third place finish at the Fred Marx Invitational. Troy also downed Georgia, which at the time was ranked 50th in the nation, in a match-play tournament earlier this month.

Barnes saw the talent the team possessed, but admits he didn’t think it would all be put together this season.

“To be honest, I’d be lying to you if I told you that I knew we would win the conference this year,” said Barnes. “I knew we had a lot of great talent. I figured we would have a chance, but I just love how this team never quit and always got better. I will remember this season for a long time, and we aren’t done yet.”

The Trojans earn the Sun Belt Conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, which takes place May 8-10 at one of three regional locations.