Greensboro wins national title
Pride's six-shot win captures first championship since 2000
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brock Elder played his final nine holes in 4-under-par. Kirk Mitchell was 1-under. Ben Nihart was even.
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Meanwhile, Illinois Wesleyan, after making a charge, stalled on the final day of the NCAA Division III Men’s Golf Championship.
In the end, after four days of rollercoaster golf at Grandover Resort, it was Greensboro College who claimed a 6-shot victory on Saturday. The Pride finished at 15-over par, including a solid 2-over 290 over the final 18 holes.
“We’ve really had a good year,” said second-year Greensboro coach Dirk Fennie. “We started it out with an unbelievable win down in Florida against a really competitive field. Some of the best teams in the country were there and that kind of set the ball in motion as far as what our goals were for the year.
“It’s not a surprise at all when you have players like Ben [Nihart] and Brock [Elder] and the three other guys playing solid when they needed to. It kind of meshed when it had to.”
Elder, a senior and Greensboro native, shot a final-round 5-under 67 and tied for fifth in the medalist race.
“It means a lot, another championship trophy on our campus,” said Elder. “As a senior it’s nice going out with a victory. This is what we’ve been working for four years.
“We couldn’t have done it out with [Coach Fennie]. [Greensboro] didn’t starting winning tournaments until two years ago when he got here. It started getting ready for this week a long time ago. He was ready to rock and roll.”
Nihart, a junior from Winston Salem, had two rounds of even par and shot 1-under 71 on Saturday. He tied for 11th.
Mitchell, a rookie from North Wilkesboro, N.C., who tied for 16th, threw in a second round 71.
Senior Connor Kennedy tied for 36th and junior Josh Nichols tied for 47th and shot a second round 71.
“Our goal last year was to get the NCAAs and after Hershey I felt like we had the experience to make something happen at this tournament,” said Fennie, whose squad was seventh in 2010. “Brock did his job. We relied on him throughout the year and we had to rely on him again [Friday] and he came through.
“It’s all about off the course, how we interact with each other, and that carries over onto the golf course. They are kind of at each other’s throats a lot of the time but when they are on the course they are rooting for each other. It makes for an interesting van ride to and from tournaments.”
Fennie kept the team on routine throughout the week – same time [6 a.m.] at the college before driving to the course; same place for breakfast; same thing everyday.
“We tried to treat it like any other tournament,” said Fennie. “But it was a long week, the longest week.”
Centre College senior Chris Morris shot four sub-par rounds, including a 71 on Friday to edge 2010 champion Tain Lee of Claremont Mudd Scripps by four strokes in the medalist race. Morris, four shots behind Lee at the 2010 Championships, shot rounds of 67-65-71-71 for a 14-under 274 total that broke Lee’s DIII four-round record of 280 set last season.
On Friday, Morris, a native of Maysville, Ky., teed off on the back nine and took a triple bogey on the par-4 11th but responded with four birdies over his next seven holes to regain control of the individual race.
Lee, a junior, had rounds of 69-67-72-70
LaGrande College’s Hudson Keener shot a final round 68 and finished third at 9-under for the week. Texas Lutheran’s Ryan Kiel (8-under), Elder (3-under) and Redlands’ Jeremy Sanders (3-under) rounded out the top 5 individuals.
Greensboro entered the final 18 holes with three-shot lead on defending champion Methodist and a six-shot advantage on Illinois Wesleyan. Methodist, first-round co-leader St. John’s and Texas Lutheran tied for third 13 shots behind The Pride.
Greensboro also won the 2000 DIII championship.