A great day to be a CCU fan, and many more to come

col-tbuzz-2Coastal Carolina fans had a difficult decision to make Sunday night at 8 p.m. – watch CCU alum Dustin Johnson play the final hole of the 116th US Open, or flip over to the Chanticleers making their historic debut in the College World Series. Thank goodness for Picture In Picture.

It was a good problem to have for Chants fans, who enjoyed the biggest sports day in school history. After several close calls and near-misses at major tournaments, Johnson finally got the monkey off his back. Meanwhile, the Chants continued to ride on the back of the good-luck monkey, Fiki, all the way to Omaha and a hard-fought 2-1 win over No. 1-seeded Florida.

It’s safe to say more people across America learned what a Chanticleer is on Sunday, and many may have heard of Coastal Carolina for the first time. The school was on the national stage like never before, and they left a good impression. Johnson had fans chanting his name by the end of his round, and the city of Omaha has adopted the Chants as the beloved underdog.

I get a bit sentimental when I see Coastal making a big splash on the national stage since I was covering the school’s sports programs were barely a blip on the local radar screen. I still remember when Gary Gilmore took the job at his alma mater and lived in a pop-up camper under the old baseball stadium and talked about his dream to take the Chants to Omaha. I assumed he meant for a camping trip.

But Gilmore steadily built the program from the ground up, and he appeared to hit his ceiling after struggling to take the next step over the past decade. He is the perfect example of what happens when you put your head down and keep grinding until you reach your goal. His coach of the year accolades are really the culmination of 21 years of hard work and perseverance.

The same can be said for Johnson, who has been hammering away at his chances to win a major for a decade. Longtim Coastal fans knew he had the potential to be a big-time player on the PGA Tour, and he talent has never been questioned. But golf snobs were starting to doubt his mental toughness to keep control in pressure situations, and he had a lot of bad breaks along the way.

But on Sunday he proved more than capable of handling the heat. In addition to the expected pressure of playing for a US Open title, Johnson had to deal with a rules official informing him on the 12th hole of a tight race that he might be issued a one-stroke penalty after the round. How you play with that hanging over your head, I can’t imagine. But DJ did it in style and made it a non-issue.

The Coastal baseball team got a similar bad break early in the game that, if you’ve been a CCU fan for a while, you were thinking that it would end up costing the Chants in the end. Zach Remillard’s hard shot down the right field line was ruled foul, and then overturned. But the correction wound up costing Coastal at least one run in a game where scores were precious.

There was a time when those official rulings would have been grounds for an excuse for Coastal. The sports program has a history of “woulda, coulda, shouldas”, and sometimes those can take a toll on a team that deep down inside thinks its not good enough to beat the big-name schools. But those days are gone, cast away in a single day on a national stage.

Indeed, it was a good day to be a Coastal fan. And now appears there will be even more big days in the future.

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