Think of men’s Division I college golf in the state of Georgia. You have perennial powers such as Georgia Tech, Georgia and reigning NCAA champion Augusta State. Then there are Georgia Southern and Georgia State, which on occasion have made their share of noise on the national scene.
Without question, this season you can add Kennesaw State to the list, making it a Peach State six-pack.
Kennesaw State, you might ask?
Yes, and this season the Owls have proved they belong, not only among the state’s elite, but right up there on a national level as well.
On April 20, Kennesaw State captured the Atlantic Sun Conference title, the first in school history. In doing so, it stamped the Owls’ ticket into the NCAA postseason.
The Owls were the only team to finish under par at the Chateau Course of Chateau Elan in Braselton, Ga., and their 7-under 845 total was nine strokes better than runner-up North Florida. That total tied the all-time conference scoring record, posted by Central Florida in 2004 and Jacksonville in ’06.
Kennesaw State junior Jeff Karlsson shot 6-under 207 to capture medalist honors – his third win of the season. Teammate Matt Nagy tied for second, while Ben Greene and Jonathan Klotz tied for 21st and Chad Wilson tied for 28th.
“We knew what we had to do coming into (the final) round, and we did it,” Kennesaw State coach Jay Moseley said after the Owls secured the title.
“Our goals were set high this season, and it’s special to achieve them. I’m proud to be taking the trophy home to Kennesaw, and we’re all looking forward to continuing our success in the NCAA postseason.”
Although it was Kennesaw State’s first A-Sun title, it hardly comes as a surprise, considering the season the Owls have had. Kennesaw, which is No. 47 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, won the Sam Hall and Rees Jones events in the fall, then opened the spring season with back-to-back wins at the South Florida Match Play and Barefoot at the Beach events. The Owls also finished second at the Seminole and Furman tournaments.
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On the complete flip side from Kennesaw State, it was a ho-hum, business-as-usual triumph for the Oklahoma State Cowboys at the Big 12 Conference Championship at Prairie Dunes in Hutchison, Kan.
The young men in orange and black won their fifth consecutive Big 12 title with a 72-hole total of 19-over 1,139, 13 strokes better than Texas A&M and 21 lower than Texas.
And how about this? It was Oklahoma State’s 54th conference championship. Heck, the majority of programs out there don’t have 54 total wins of any kind.
Once again, coach Mike McGraw’s Big Three led the way. Morgan Hoffmann was medalist at even-par 280, while Kevin Tway was second at 285 and Peter Uihlein tied for fourth at 288 (he closed 69-70 after a 74-75 start). Talor Gooch tied for 16th and posted a 67 in the third round, and Sean Einhaus tied for 26th with an impressive third-round 66.
A nice little tuneup for the No. 1 Cowboys, who are the host team for this year’s NCAA finals at Karsten Creek in Stillwater.
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Lamar did not win the Southland Conference Championship title. That distinction went to Texas-Arlingon, which finished at 2-under 862 to gain the league’s automatic invite into the NCAA postseason. Lamar finished second at 8-over 872, one stroke better than Southeastern Louisiana.
Still, it was an important finish for Lamar. Entering the conference championship, Lamar was ranked 70th and most important of all, it was below the .500 benchmark in the overall won-loss record. That meant the Cardinals needed to finish fourth or better in the 10-team field to even have a chance for a postseason berth.
Their second place gives them a 76-72 overall record and keeps their hopes alive for an at-large selection.
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Ouch! That’s what 10 teams must be saying – and feeling – after being seriously stung by the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech this past weekend at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
In winning its third consecutive ACC title and fifth in the past six years, Tech left the field so far in the distance that a range finder couldn’t locate the buzzing Jackets.
With players finishing 1-2-3, Tech shot a final-round 16 under to finish with an ACC tournament record 33-under 831 at the Old North State Club course in New London, N.C. That was a whopping 20 shots better than Duke and 30 less than third-place Clemson.
Paul Haley birdied the final hole for a 10-under 206 to capture medalist honors, one stroke better than teammate Kyle Scott. J.T. Griffin, with a closing 66, placed third at 7-under 209.
“That’s some of the best golf we’ve ever played,” said Yellow Jackets coach Bruce Heppler, who has guided the program to eight of its 13 ACC titles. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for these guys and how they played this weekend. For those three seniors (Haley, Scott and Griffin) to finish 1-2-3 and graduate in 10 days, now that’s as good as it gets.”
Haley joins a list of Tech ACC champions that includes Bob McDonnell, David Duval (twice), Mikko Rantanen, Bryce Molder, Cameron Tringale and Chesson Hadley (last year). Haley won his second consecutive tournament and posted his fifth top-10 finish of the season. He also was 3-1 in the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship last month. In his past five stroke-play rounds, he is 15 under par.
The ACC victory moved Georgia Tech from fourth to second in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.
All I can say is, watch out in the postseason: These Yellow Jackets seem to be in a stinging frame of mind.