CHARLESTON — Ben Lanman, Preston Smith and Keegan Gowin were all part of a special senior class for the Charleston boys' golf team along with Robert Rardin. Those four along with juniors Blake Wolfe and Zach Will teamed up to win the Class 2A golf title last year. Then they put together a repeat performance to repeat as 2A champions about a month ago.
Now three of those four seniors are going to team up to try and help the Eastern Illinois men's golf team compete for an Ohio Valley Conference title in the future.
On Wednesday, Lanman, Smith and Gowin all signed to continue their golf careers for EIU head coach Mike Moncel.
"It's pretty exciting knowing I get to continue my career with some of my high school buddies," Gowin said. "That's pretty awesome to sign with them. I knew we were all trying to get somewhere to go that would take all of us and it turns out that Eastern was willing to take us all. We were trying to get somewhere to go together since we did so well in high school. Carry that on over to college even though the courses do change."
Rardin was on-hand to watch his teammates throughout middle school and high school sign with EIU. He is visiting Franklin College this week to potentially continue his golf career. His first choice would be to join the Naval Academy and he has some of his testing for that this week.
Lanman said the four years have flown by and he's ready to compete at EIU with his two friends.
"We have a long winter ahead but I am glad I made my decision and I am ready to go. I probably couldn't have dreamed that this would've happened, a team having three spots open for us three," Lanman said. "Things work out and we all have the same goal in mind that we wanted a chance to play early in our career. This is a good place that we can achieve that."
Smith is ready to get a new chapter of his life underway at EIU especially with Mattoon Country Club as the team's home course.
"It's going to be exciting. I am hoping we all can do some good. I am ready to play with these guys and meet some new people and get some better competition," Smith said. "It will be really fun. I am going to play harder courses if I qualify for tournaments which will be fun."
Charleston head coach Randy Harpster said it's incredible to see three teammates who will all golf at the same NCAA Division I school right in their backyard.
"And from such a small school to be able to do that, this definitely shows how special they are," Harpster said. "They are going to play for one of the best college coaches. Mike Moncel is amazing and they are going to have a tremendous experience. I think they are going to have a lot of success. It's going to turn EIU's program around. These guys are game-changers and they love to work. It's going to be fun watching the next four years."
Lanman said Moncel has helped him improve his swing throughout the years already and he looks forward to getting more instruction from his now-college coach. Moncel also worked with Gowin.
"Why would I get away from the guy who helped mold me into who I am? I can stay here and work with him," Lanman said.
The three Charleston golfers will join Mattoon's Nick Nguyen, who is a freshman for the Panthers golf team this season.
Gowin thinks all three of them can have a positive impact for EIU and they want to try and have their high school success carry over to EIU.
"Our freshman year, there are quite a few good players so we have to ease our way in and get better. I know there's going to be competition among all of us to get that five-spot and we will see how it goes," Gowin said. "That's the goal, we started like how we did at Charleston golf. No one knew about us in the beginning and here at the end, everyone knows about that. We are trying to do that same thing here at EIU."
Smith is ready to find out just how much all three of them can help out EIU's program.
"We are going to try. We are going to try and go out there and try to win and compete. I just want to go out there and compete," Smith said.
Lanman said only time will tell about how big of an impact all three can have at EIU.
"We have to keep working hard. College is a completely different level and we want to make it to where we are competitive. We aren't going to settle for last place," Lanman said. "Hopefully we can raise the bar a little bit when we get there."