Bobcat golfers finish fourth at USCAA Nationals
With just 10 holes to play in the final round of the 2017 United States Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Golf National Championship at Penn State University this past Tuesday, Georgia Northwestern Technical College - who as recently as five months ago was still signing players to field a team after a year’s hiatus - found itself atop the leaderboard.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they couldn’t close the deal.
After making the turn at 7-over par as a team in the final round, things went sour for the Navy-and-Silver down the stretch. A tough back nine, along with a couple of two-stroke penalties, conspired against the Bobcats as they went 18-over on the final nine holes and slipped to fourth place in the final team standings.
Cleary University (Mich.), the 2015 national champions who shot a 298 in Monday’s opening round, couldn’t keep up the pace in the final 18 holes. They carded a 311 on Tuesday, leaving the door open for SUNYDelhi, who fired a 295. That score, combined with a 309 in the opening round, gave the Broncos a 36-hole total of 604 and the national title.
The 295 was the fourth-lowest round by a team in the history of the USCAA National Championships.
Cleary still had enough to hang for the runner-up trophy as their 609 was two shots clear of Indiana firstyear program St. Mary’s of the Woods College (301-310). Georgia Northwestern (303-313) finished at 616.
Individually, Branton Bailey carded scores of 75 and 78 for the Bobcats. His total of 153 (9-over-par) tied him for 11th place and was low enough to earn second team All-American honors.
Adrian Clark finished at 155 (75-80,), while David Manis (157) rebounded from an opening round 83 to fire a team-low 2-over par 74 on Tuesday. Lane Strickland shot a 153 (77-81) and Cole Roberts finished up with a 162 (76-86). All five Bobcat golfers finished in the top half of the 112-player field.
“I think (placing fourth) says a lot about our guys,” head coach Eddie Jackson said. “When we got up there, I’m not sure how well they thought they would play, even though I tried to tell them going up there that I thought we had a good chance. But once we got going, they knew we were good enough to play with everyone there.
“I can’t beieve how far we have come, especially with only having five players. What’s more amazing is that most of the schools we played against up there give athletic scholarships and we don’t. We really played well. We seized the lead and were up by two shots after eight holes (in the final round), but we just didn’t finish well. Maybe just being freshmen and never having been in that type of situation before had a ilttle to do with it. Still, I’m excited about what we did and this group we have.”
Colton Kuppler of St. Mary’s (75-70) and Russell Herbert of SUNY-Delhi (7273) finished tied at 1-over par (145) in the individual standings after 36 holes. Kuppler later carded a birdie on the first playoff hole to win the individual championship.
The USCAA National Championships may be over, but the fall season still has a month to go for Georgia Northwestern. The Bobcats will play at the Berry College Invitational at the Stonebridge Golf and Country Club in Rome on Oct. 22-24 before heading to Alexander City, Ala. on Nov. 12-14 for the Trojan Invitational, hosted by Central Alabama C.C.
Georgia Northwestern freshman golfer Branton Bailey earned USCAA second team All-American honors during the USCAA Nationals at Penn State University last week. The Bobcats placed fourth overall, 12 shots out of first place. (File photo by Scott Herpst)