DELAND, Fla. -- It will be hard to convince USC Aiken head golf coach Michael Carlisle that dreams dont really come true in the city that Mickey Mouse built after the Pacers pulled away down the stretch to capture the 42nd NCAA Division II Mens Golf National Championship. USCA finished at +39 for the 72-hole tournament, nine shots better than CSU Chico and 10 strokes in front on Barry University, giving the school its first National Championship of any kind.
The 72-hole event was contested at the 6,966 yard, par 72 Victoria Hills Golf Club in Deland, Fla. This years tournament was held in conjunction with the first-ever NCAA Division II Sports Festival throughout the greater Orlando area.
This has been 14 years coming, said Carlisle, the five-time Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year. We feel like we probably should have won it two or three times before this, but this is a hard goal to achieve and Im just so happy for our players and those who came down here to support us.
Competing in the NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament for the 10th time in their 13th years as a member of the NCAA, USC Aiken had finished runner-up three times in the previous eight years (1995, 96, 99).
The Pacers opened played on Wednesday with a 16-over-par 304 and found themselves tied for seventh and 13 shots off the pace. But a strong day two showing of 297 vaulted the team into third place. In Fridays third round, Scott Brown birdied the final three holes and Brown, Dane Burkhart, and James McGhee each birdied 18 as the Pacers found themselves one stroke up on Barry and two ahead of CSU Chico, and the leader heading into Saturdays final round.
Battling raining conditions throughout most of the round, the Pacers proved they could mud when called upon, firing the best round of the day with a 10-over-par 298. CSU Chico shot a 305 and Barry a 307. One impressive note to the victory regarding the weather is that they did it in all conditions, the windy, humid, afternoon heat of Central Florida, the cooler morning round with dew on the course, and lastly the rainy conditions of Saturday.
We were very fortunate today, you could play the same situation tomorrow and another team would win, said Carlisle. There are a lot of good, quality teams in the tournament and to be able to win this tournament against such good teams just makes it all that much better.
CSU Chico and Barry were not as fortunate as the Pacers. Despite a young USCA team battling the junior and senior laidened teams of their foes, it was not the Pacers folding over the final nine holes. USCA held just a three shot lead as the final pairings teed off on 14. But the Pacers were solid down the stretch and their opponents were not.
Brown (North Augusta, S.C.) led the Pacers on Saturday with a final round of one-over-par 73 to finish at 295, or seven-over-par, to tie for fourth. Three birdies and four bogeys on the front side had the sophomore making the turn at one-over-par. After bogeying the par three 12th, Brown birdied the par four 17th to shoot even-par 36 on the back.
Burkhart (Aiken, S.C.) also shot a 73 on Saturday to finish with a 296, or eight-over-par, for the tournament and tie with teammate Clint Smith for sixth place. Burkhart, also a sophomore, recorded one birdie and two bogeys on the front while shooting even-par 36 on the back side.
Smith (High Point, N.C.) started slow with a double bogey on one and back-to-back bogeys on six and seven to move to three-over-par entering the ninth. He birdied nine, bogeyed 10, and then rattled off seven-straight pars until his birdie on 18 in front of a huge gallery of onlookers capped his three-over-par 75.
McGhee (Edinburgh, Scotland) and senior Bryan Sangid (Jefferson City, Tenn.) each carded final round 77s. McGhee finished with a 308 to tie for 44th, while Sangid closed out his collegiate career with a 312, tying for 62nd in the 102-player field.
CSU Stanislaus (+58) finished a distant fourth followed by Barton (+62) in fifth and West Florida (+64) in sixth.
J.J. Jakovac of CSU Chico carded a final round 73 to finish with a 72-hole total of one-under-par 287 to win the individual title. Jakovac, the individual winner in 2002, becomes just the third player in Division II history to win two individual national championships.
Brown, Burkhart, and Smith were each presented with individual trophies for having finished in the top 10 in the individual standings.