Magical run ends for magical group
Coach, starting five end Augusta State careers with title
STILLWATER, Okla. – When the University of Houston won back-to-back men’s golf championships in 1984 and ’85, Augusta State head coach Josh Gregory had not reached his 10th birthday.
It took 27 years, but Gregory became the first coach to lead a Division I squad to back-to-back titles since then when his senior-laden squad beat Georgia 3-2, for the 2011 title at Karsten Creek Golf Club on a sweltering Sunday afternoon. One year ago the Jaguars knocked off Oklahoma State in the final.
“I have no words to describe this feeling,” said ASU’s Patrick Reed. “It’s kind of bittersweet because what we accomplished was special but this is the last time we’ll play together in college. We will all go our separate ways.
“This week was incredible. Two in a row, 6-0, turning pro and all of us leaving, unfortunately. But we couldn’t ask for anything better to finish our careers [at Augusta].”
Reed was the only junior on a squad with four seniors. And talk about a mixed bag.
Reed, an Augusta native, started his career at Georgia but ended up in Augusta to play for Gregory. After dismantling Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein in Saturday’s semifinal win Reed grinded his way to a 2-up victory against Bulldog senior Harris English on Sunday.
Senior Henrick Norlander was barely recruited while playing junior golf in Sweden. But former Jaguar Kalle Edberg thought Gregory should take a chance on the 6-foot-2 kid with a good swing.
Norlander beat OSU’s Kevin Tway on Saturday but dropped his match with Russell Henley in the final.
“I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” said Norlander. “Pro golf is always going to be there, but what I’ve been through with these guys the last few years… I wouldn’t change a thing.
“When we won last year we were kind of in shock. This year we knew we had a good team but to win it again is just hard to imagine.”
Mitch Krywulycz came to the United States from Australia. He lost a tough 1-up match to Oklahoma State’s Morgan Hoffman on Saturday but bounced back to beat Hudson Swafford, 2-up, on Sunday.
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Gregory’s third point came from Carter Newman, who won a dramatic extra-hole match in the semifinals then destroyed T.J. Mitchell, 7 and 5, on Sunday.
The fourth senior, Ollie Bengtsson, was a Swedish junior champion and missed the 2010 championship playing as the sixth man, something he’s done most of his career.
“It’s college golf, maybe it’s not big-time football or basketball, but they just made history and to be able to do that, win back-to-back national championships, and to do it in the fashion they did is remarkable,” said Gregory, who has won two NCAA titles in nine seasons. “It’s something I’ve never dreamed of; something I can’t believe just happened to us, and that’s exactly what the kids say.”
During the trophy presentation Gregory addressed the small gathering of ASU fans – some of which drove overnight 16 hours to get to Stillwater. The obviously emotional coach held back tears knowing that a special group of kids accomplished something not done in a quarter of a century.
Chris Haack’s Bulldogs sent out three seniors and battled until the end as expected. Senior Russell Henley beat Norlander 3 and 2, going 3-0 in match play this week. Henley drained a 50-footer on the fifth hole and never looked back.
“We hung in as best we could,” said Henley. “Augusta State is playing really good golf right now, and we knew we’d have to play really good golf against them. We gave it a run. I’m proud of what everybody did to get us here.”
“That is pretty impressive,” said Haack of Augusta State’s repeat. “That just shows how good that group of guys are. They could do it twice. They took down some pretty powerful teams en route to doing it. My hat is off to them.”