2005: College - Deacons wake up at regionals
Kingston Springs, Tenn.
The Wake Forest men’s golf program has a long and storied history. The names of former Demon Deacons read like a Who’s Who in college and professional golf, and the list of the program’s tournament championships seems endless, including 18 Atlantic Coast Conference titles and three NCAA crowns.
There was only one thing missing – an NCAA regional championship.
Not anymore. The Demon Deacons took care of that at the NCAA Division I East Regional at the Golf Club of Tennessee.
Wake led wire to wire and captured the elusive regional title May 21 with a final-round 3-under-par 281. The Deacons’ 17-under 835 total was three shots better than Tennessee, which closed with a 5-under 279 and posted its best regional finish.
“This is by far my biggest win as a coach,” said Jerry Haas, in his eighth season at the Wake Forest helm. “And I know for our guys it’s the biggest win. This is the toughest week of the year, and I think for us to come in here and win wire to wire there’s a lot to be said.
“We have a young team with two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors, and they played like seasoned veterans all week. We had beaten some of the top teams during the season so we knew we belonged. With about six holes left we knew we were in (the NCAA finals), and I said to myself, ‘OK guys, now go out there and finish it off.’ And they did.”
The top 10 teams and low two individuals who are not members of those teams advanced to the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship June 1-4 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md.
Also earning spots at Caves Valley were Georgia (which finished third at 9-under 843 and led a quartet of Georgia schools advancing), Georgia State, Florida, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Coastal Carolina, Duke and Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern hung on to the final spot by two shots over 11th-place Clemson despite playing the last two holes in 5 over par.
Coastal Carolina, located in Conway, S.C., will make its first trip to the NCAA finals.
“It’s great for our players, great for our program, great for our school,” said fifth-year coach Allen Terrell. “Right now it’s hard to put it all into words. I’m still trying to get used to the idea that we’re going to be still playing next week.”
Dustin Johnson, a sophomore from Coastal Carolina, claimed medalist honors with a stunning 15-under 198, highlighted by a 45-foot eagle putt at No. 17 en route to a 7-under 64 in the final round. He finished one stroke better than second-round leader Rhys Davies of East Tennessee State, who closed with a 3-under 68. Sharing third at 10-under 203 were Florida’s Matt Every and Wake’s Sean Moore.
Johnson certainly made his first college victory an impressive one. After opening rounds of 65-69, he overcame a three-shot deficit with his closing 64.
“Obviously I played well, especially today,” Johnson said. “I’m just very excited, mostly for our team. It’s just a great feeling knowing we’re going to the NCAA Championship.”
He wasted little time in making his charge the last day. Johnson birdied No. 2, eagled No. 5 and birdied Nos. 6, 7 and 9 to turn in 6-under 30. He birdied No. 11, then hung on in an up-and-down finish which saw him bogey No. 14, birdie No. 15, bogey No. 16, eagle No. 17 and bogey No. 18.
“It was a crazy finish, that’s for sure,” Johnson said. “But the main thing is I won, and winning a big tournament like this always give you a boost in confidence. Now I have a good feeling going into the NCAA finals."