NINETY SIX — Charleston Southern picked the perfect time for one of the best rounds in Big South history.
The Buccaneers shot 10-under as a team to pull away from the field and win the 2015 Big South Men’s Golf Championship on Tuesday at The Patriot Golf Club at Grand Harbor (par 72, 7,120 yards).
The Bucs started the day in fourth place, but their final round 278 (-10) vaulted them into first near the midpoint of the round. CSU combined to play the first five holes on the back nine at 6-under par, finishing at 11-under 853 — the third-lowest 54-hole total in Big South Championship history — for its first men’s golf title since 2003 and third overall.
CSU head coach Mike Wilson, after years of coming so close, summed up what the win means to his program.
“This means everything,” Wilson said. “I don’t know how many times we’ve finished second. People from other schools know we’re going to make a run (at The Patriot), and this time the run was good enough. To win this tournament is awesome and, to do it the way we did, you can’t dream that up.”
Freshman R.J. Keur was the medalist, finishing at 8-under par to win by a stroke after beginning the day in a six-way tie for second at 5-under. He had five birdies in Tuesday’s round and capped off a strong freshman year with one of the most impressive performances in CSU history. Keur had 14 birdies in his three rounds and is the Bucs’ first medalist since 2006.
“R.J. Keur is the highest-ranked recruit we’ve signed in our program,” Wilson said. “I knew he could play and this week, he really put it together for all three rounds. To win his first championship at (The Patriot) is amazing.”
Keur’s teammates stepped up in a big way to put the Bucs on top.
Junior Nico Baena had his best collegiate round with a bogey-free 68 (-4). He fired a 3-under 33 on his front nine to set the tone early for CSU.
“Pretty awesome what Nico did,” Wilson said. “We knew he could perform, for him to go out there today and post a 68 with no bogeys was huge. It was not a surprise, and, obviously, it was really good timing.”
Senior Jarrett Swan had the Bucs’ third-lowest score of the day, posting a 2-under 70 with a pair of birdies on each side. He finished 11th overall and finished his career exactly how he wanted.
“Jarrett said last season, after we were second, that he wasn’t leaving this year without a title,” Wilson said. “I think it means more to him because he’s a local kid, bringing a title to his hometown.”
Sophomore Austin James and freshman Jake Ezell added strong finishes. James was under par in his final round with a 71 (-1), while Ezell was 3-over with a 74. Ezell finished tied for 18th, while James, who had missed almost a month, gave the Bucs three solid scores without his best stuff.
“Austin would say he struggled during the tournament, but he battled, had a solid round and obviously helped us win. That was just a solid 71,” Wilson added. “Jake really came on the last two-thirds of the season. He showed his potential in the fall and continued to work really hard. He played very well all three rounds and to help us win is a testament to his hard work.”
The Buccaneers earn the Big South’s automatic berth into an NCAA Regional. Charleston Southern will now await its NCAA Regional assignment at one of six locations in the nation, which will be contested May 14-16.
Charleston Southern finished six strokes ahead of Campbell.
Longwood’s Blake Carter was under par as well on Tuesday with a 71, but could not hold onto his lead and tied for runner-up. Winthrop’s Zach Seabolt was briefly tied with Keur for the lead at 8-under, but bogeyed the par 3 No. 17 hole to drop into second-place with Carter. In all, 13 players finished the Championship under par.
Campbell jumped from sixth place to finish as the team runner-up at 5-under 859 behind Gaston Bertinotti’s 3-under 69, as well as Mikko Lehtovuori’s 70, Thomas La Morte’s 72 and Jeremy Nevius’ 72 for a 5-under 283 in the final round. It marked the Fighting Camels’ best finish in the Big South Men’s Golf Championship since re-joining the Conference in 2011-12.
The final team standings saw 36-hole leader Coastal Carolina drop to fourth at 864, while Winthrop moved up to claim third-place with an 861 (-3). Liberty dropped from second to fifth with its 865, just ahead of Gardner-Webb’s 870. Presbyterian College was seventh with an 879, with Radford (885), Longwood (897) and High Point (917) rounding out the leaderboard.
Earning All-Championship Team honors were Keur, Carter, Seabolt, Bertinotti, Gardner-Webb’s Vincent Blanchette and Liberty’s Mathieu Fenasse.
In addition, the Big South announced its men’s golf annual award winners on Tuesday. The awards were voted on by the head coaches following the Championship and are based on regular-season and Championship performance. Seabolt was unanimously voted Golfer of the Year, while Liberty’s Isaiah Logue was voted Freshman of the Year. Winthrop head coach Kevin Pendley was voted Coach of the Year, and Gardner-Webb’s Matthew Yelverton was voted Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the Big South’s Sports Information Directors.
Track and field
College of Charleston senior Hayley McMahon was named CAA Women’s Track Athlete of the Week.
McMahon, a standout for both the Cougars’ track and field and cross country teams, was the College’s top performer at the Georgia Tech Invitational this past weekend where she broke the program’s longstanding record in the 800-meter run. Finishing with a time of 2:09.82, McMahon’s mark proved good enough for sixth place among a field of 63 competitors.
The school record is McMahon’s second of the season, after also breaking the program’s previous distance medley mark (alongside fellow student-athletes Kora Kostka, Carlee Cassidy and Deanna King) at the Buccaneer Invitational earlier this season.