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A college athlete proclaiming “academics first” is a simple enough resolve.
However, Barton College golfer Justin Plane stayed with academics as the top priority in 2017-18, his junior season with the Bulldogs.
Plane, who hails from Whitby, Canada, not only repeated as a second-team All-Conference Carolinas selection but was saluted as the conference’s scholar athlete of the year in the sport of men’s golf.
He not only posted a team-best stroke average of 73.90 but compiled a 3.74 grade-point average as a health and physical education major. Plane expects to graduate in December of 2019.
“I am very humbled,” Plane said in a telephone interview. “I didn’t know the award existed. It’s pretty cool that I got nominated and honored.
“This award really humbles me. There are no words to describe it when I heard about it.”
The award is considered among the most prestigious presented by the NCAA Division II conference because it represents the best combination of athletic and academic success.
It’s limited to juniors and seniors who earned athletic and academic all-conference recognition.
Award recipients are selected by the Conference Carolinas’ student-athlete affairs committee.
In the award’s eight-year history, Plane is just the second men’s golfer from Barton to be selected. The first was Nicolas Fonseca in 2013-14. Plane joins Justin Alford (men’s indoor track) and Alex Kimble (women’s basketball) as Barton athletes named scholar athlete of the year in their respective sport in 2017-18.
On the golf course, Plane posted a trio of top-three finishes and finished in the top 10 on five occasions. He was the runner-up in the South/Southeast Region Preview won by the Bulldogs and tied for sixth in the conference tournament.
Plane describes the life of a student-athlete as “a very busy day.”
He explains he’s involved in golf workouts early in the morning, attends class during the day’s midst, heads to the golf course in the afternoons and turns his attention to his studies in the evening. Plane notes he has to fit in social activities.
The only break is a five-week period between the fall and spring seasons.
“It’s all about time management,” Plane explained. “But it has been a really good experience — I can handle both. I had a pretty steady golf season — a lot of good finishes. It’s tough when you miss 12 actual days of class, but I have been pretty steady in the classroom. It’s important that you keep up with your studies and go to class when you can.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher and academics came first. It’s about getting your work done and enjoying your time on the course.”
Plane admits he didn’t understand the depth of the challenge of balancing academics and athletics when he left high school.
“When I came to Barton, I was eager to play,” Plane said. “I have always been a good student and I wanted to keep improving my golf.”
“I want to keep improving as a person, student and athlete,” Plane responded. “My game is in a good place and (in 2018-19) we’re going to be eager to win.”