PAWLEY’S ISLAND, S.C. –– Campbell’s John Crooks began his 23rd season as head coach of both the men’s and women’s programs on Sunday.
And Tuesday’s victory in the women’s portion of the Golfweek Program Challenge marked 116 team tournament titles – 71 of them on the women’s side – for the Camels under their longtime coach.
But it’s the victory that won’t go into the official record books that had Crooks most pleased. For the third time in the event’s three-year history, Campbell took home the program championship, which goes to the program with the best combined men’s and women’s team score over 54 holes.
While the Campbell women totaled 10-over 862 at Caledonia Golf and Fish Club to win by 17 shots, the men’s team used two birdies and an eagle on the final hole of the tournament, the par-5 ninth at True Blue, to post a 15-over 879. The strong finish gave Campbell a 25-over total and a one-shot victory over Jacksonville State, which was runner-up on the women’s side and T-3 in the men’s tournament.
“Every shot is important; every shot makes someone happy,” Crooks said. “It was truly 10 people contributing for the victory.”
Here are 5 Things you need to know after Tuesday’s final round of the Golfweek Program Challenge:
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1. TERRIFIC TAHNIA: Campbell sophomore Tahnia Ravnjak can take away multiple positives from her three rounds at Caledonia.
Not only did her team win its second straight women’s title and third consecutive program championship at the Golfweek Program Challenge, but she also shot a tournament-record 5-under 66 en route to claiming individual medalist honors.
Ravnjak, who tied for seventh at this event as a freshman, trailed second-round leader Ginger Mak of James Madison by five shots entering Tuesday’s final round. But seven birdies along with a closing 75 by Mak allowed Ravnjak to capture her first collegiate individual victory.
“I knew it was going to be a tough fight to come back and get into the lead, so I just was very level-headed,” said Ravnjak, who at 2-under 211 was the only player to finish the tournament under par. “I just had to stay focused and not worry about the score.”
After landing her approach on the green at the par-4 18th hole on Tuesday, Crooks gave Ravnjak a high five in the middle of the fairway. The congratulations came a day after Crooks had a talk with Ravnjak to instill a little confidence into the sophomore after some tough luck on the green in the first two rounds.
“We had a conversation (Monday) afternoon,” Crooks said. “She was playing really well. She was hitting a lot of good putts and they were rolling across the edge (of the holes). It was one of those coach conversations where you say, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing and one day they’ll go in the hole.’
“Today was that day.”
Ravnjak was one of three players in the top 5 for Campbell. Redshirt junior Ali Prazak tied for second with Mak and Jacksonville State’s Anne Kathrin Albrecht at 2 over, while junior Lisbeth Brooks, the first-round leader, was solo fifth at 3 over.
A year after the Camels cruised to a 40-shot victory in this event, they topped runner-up Jacksonville State by less than half that margin. Yet, this year’s win was just as satisfying.
“It’s definitely better having a smaller lead,” Ravnjak said, “because that just made us fight harder.”
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2. POSTING HIS FIRST VICTORY: Entering the Golfweek Program Challenge, Western Carolina junior J.T. Poston had never won a college golf tournament. He’d come close, including two ties for second as a sophomore, but couldn’t quite pull off a winning performance both times.
On Tuesday at True Blue, he sealed the deal. Poston shot a final-round 2-under 70 to finish at 11-under 205 and secure the wire-to-wire victory.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Poston, who ended up four shots clear of runner-up J.B. Williams of Akron. “I’ve been close the last couple years, especially last year with two T-2 finishes. Finally being able to finish one off feels pretty good.”
Poston missed just three greens and had only five bogeys in three rounds. His first-round 6-under 66 included no bogeys and 18 greens in regulation.
“When you only miss three greens (in three rounds), it’s stress-free,” Poston said.
But while his rounds may have been stress free, it was a different feeling as Poston waited for the final scores to come in.
“I didn’t have to do a whole lot of waiting, but it felt like a while after posting that number, knowing that there were still two or three guys that could catch me,” said the first-time winner. “It was pretty nerve-racking.”
But now that he has his maiden victory, Poston is ready to win more.
“(I have) a lot more confidence knowing that I got the first one out of the way and proving to myself that I can win one of these tournaments,” Poston said.
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3. ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH: The last time Akron won a men’s golf tournament was in April 2011, the spring before head coach David Trainor was hired.
That’s no longer the case, though, after the Zips won the men’s team title by five shots over Indiana-Purdue Indianapolis on Tuesday.
Akron recorded a 54-hole total of 8-under 856. That included a final-round 3-under 285, a closing performance that moved the Zips from third after the second round to first by tournament’s end.
“I knew a good round was out there,” Trainor said. “I’m so proud of the way they played, the way they competed. . . . There was no backing down. They just kept on going, kept their foot to the floor and it was fun to watch.”
The Zips boasted two players in the top 3 individually – J.B. Williams finished second while Carr Vernon tied for third. Vernon’s final-round 4-under 68 was the lowest score counted by Akron on Tuesday. The Zips also counted two rounds of 72 and a 73.
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4. RETURNING MEDALISTS: The previous two men’s individual medalists – Jacksonville State’s Tomasz Anderson (2011) and James Madison’s Trey Smith (2012) – were back at True Blue looking to notch a second individual title.
But while neither repeated as champion, they both recorded top-10 finishes.
Anderson carded rounds of 70-72-72 for a 2-under 214 total and a ninth-place finish. He made 10 birdies and eight bogeys, and played the back nine in a combined 3 under for three rounds.
Smith finished a shot better at 3-under 213. The eighth-place finish was highlighted by a second-round 5-under 67 in which he made no bogeys, three birdies and an eagle. He struggled Tuesday, though, making seven bogeys en route to a 5-over 77.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: IUPUI, which finished runner-up in the men’s tournament, had just two finishes of second or better last season. . . . James Madison, the first- and second-round leader on the men’s side, shot a final-round 13-over 301 to finish tied for fifth, nine shots back of Akron. . . . Campbell’s Tahnia Ravnjak’s 5-under 66 was just one of five subpar scores Tuesday at Caledonia. Jacksonville State’s Anne Kathrin Albrecht shot 69, while Stetson’s Mallory Viera and Alessandra Kutz, and Western Carolina’s Kim Mitchell all carded 70.