May 21, 2010
By Mike Beas
Special to NCAA.com
Noblesville, Ind. – Florida Southern is adding a 12th Division II men’s national championship trophy to the school’s athletic display case, but it wasn’t easy.
Between four days of less-than-ideal weather conditions, the challenging Jack Nicklaus-designed Sagamore Golf Club and Friday’s attempts to keep three determined squads at arm’s length, the Mocs demonstrated tremendous determination in capturing their first golf title since 2000.
Shooting a team final-round score of 307, Florida Southern finished with a 1,206 strokes overall, seven shots ahead of runner-up Central Missouri (1,213). Others in contention until the end were third-round leader Chico State in third (1,214) and defending national champion Sonoma State (1,216).
“It’s been a long enough time that this one feels real good,” said Mocs coach Doug Gordin, whose program won four titles (1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000) in his first five years on the job. “I’m just happy these guys got to feel what it’s like to win a championship.”
One such player was Shelton Smith, whose three rounds of 74 added to a third-round 77 enabled the junior to tie for eighth place individually.
“When I found out we had won, I teared up. It’s hard to describe it,” said Smith. “To be honest I’ve never achieved a goal this big. It was kind of surreal at first.”
Entering Friday’s play one shot behind Chico State, Florida Southern’s big-meet experience came to the forefront. Not only did Smith shoot 74, Matt Stauch’s 71 placed him third among individuals with a 5-over 293.
Prior to this week, Central Missouri’s best finish at nationals had been 10th in 1994. The Mules of coach Tim Poe now have a new yardstick now that they are taking home the second-place trophy.
“I felt like we really could have won, but I’m elated with a second-place finish,” said Poe, whose squad was led Friday by senior Justin Yoder with an even-par 72 and Jared King’s 73. “I’ve said it all year that this is a group with no jealousy or animosity between any of them. They’re just special in the way they get along, and they’re pretty talented, too.”
Chico State’s quest for its first team title since 1966 didn’t go quite as the Wildcats had envisioned. The team’s final-round 316 was the worst of its scores, having previously posted totals of 307, 298 and 293. As one of the tournament’s top 10 individuals, Kyle Souza (T6) was named first team All-American.
Meanwhile, Abilene Christian junior Cyril Bouniol ran away with medalist honors. He shot a 3-under total of 285, six shots better than Yoder’s 291. During Wednesday’s second round Bouniol tied the course record with a 68, a score duplicated twice during the final round by University of Indianapolis senior Seth Fair and Lynn senior Marcus Williams.
As individual and team awards were handed out late Friday afternoon, feel-good stories were abundant, and Florida Southern was among them. In 2002 and 2007 the Mocs lost golden opportunities to add championships, falling short on the final hole both years.
This time they closed the deal.
“On this golf course, it was a matter of survival,” said Gordin. “We had to be tough mentally and keep moving forward, and we were the last man standing.”
With the threat of rain looming, tournament officials allowed the top 15 teams to compete the final day rather than the full field of 20 in an attempt to quicken course flow. In all, 27 threesomes got in 18 holes where 36 groups had been the norm the previous three rounds.