• • •
KINGSTON SPRINGS, Tenn. – Texas A&M’s Ben Crancer didn’t let up one bit during the final round of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Collegiate Challenge Cup.
He earned his first collegiate victory by shooting a 5-under 66 to win by seven at the inaugural tournament matching five teams from the ACC against five from the SEC at The Golf Club of Tennessee.
“I played pretty solid starting off, which was key because I didn’t want to worry or have to think about having to play really good to get the win,” Crancer said. “I just wanted to play my game and be comfortable, and I think the start was good.”
At the first hole, Crancer stuck his approach shot to 4 feet and converted his birdie try. Then the sophomore from Kirkwood, Mo., chipped in on No. 4. With that momentum, he made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 – two holes that he played in 6 under in three rounds.
Crancer missed other short birdie opportunities on Nos. 12, 14 and 15, and he thought his round could have been ‘crazy low’ again as he had shot a competitive course-record 8-under 63 during the second round Friday.
He was nervous standing over his last 4-footer for par, even though he knew he had victory, and three-putted for bogey. It was his first bogey in 26 holes.
Crancer also set a Texas A&M school record for lowest 54-hole total, with a 16-under 197.
“Because they have had a lot of really good players come through Texas A&M, to have that record is awesome,” Crancer said.
Texas A&M finished second as a team as first-round leader Georgia came back to win the team title.
It was a tale of two different days, according to Georgia head coach Chris Haack.
“Yesterday we struggled on the back nine and A&M lit it up coming in,” Haack said. “Today I think we played really good the back nine and they struggled a bit, and it kind of evened up and we were fortunate that we could pull ahead.”
Georgia, No. 11 in the preseason Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, went 9 under after making the turn when the Bulldogs were down six shots to the Aggies.
Georgia senior Joey Garber finished second after a closing 4-under 67. He shot 9-under 204 for the tournament. Sophomore Lee McCoy (67) tied for fifth at 3-under 210, and senior Michael Cromie (69–211) tied for eighth.
There was an incentive for the winning team, and the Bulldogs had that in the back of their minds starting the final round.
As champions of the Collegiate Challenge Cup, Georgia will get to stay in the Ingram Cabin, which is located on the Golf Club of Tennessee property, for next year’s event.
“It’s funny. Our guys were pretty motivated by the fact that the winning team gets to stay in the Ingram Cabin next year, so it’s funny how things motivate these guys, but we’re excited about that,” Haack added.
The SEC claimed four of the top five spots. ACC member Clemson finished third at 3 under, followed by the SEC’s Tennessee (6 over) and Vanderbilt (7 over).
This is Georgia’s first victory of the season, after the Bulldogs finished second at their season opener, the Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic.
“It’s nice to get a team victory early in the season, especially here at this great course and this great tournament,” Garber said. “As in all sports, it’s all about momentum, and obviously we will have some momentum going into the next few tournaments. And hopefully we’ll keep it rolling all the way through to the national championship.”