Houston Baptist wins America Sky title, punches ticket to NCAA tournament
SAN ANTONIO -- On a day that saw three different teams hold the lead at one time during the final round, Houston Baptist battled back to capture the 2013 America Sky Conference Championship by three shots against runner-up Southern Utah and four against Utah Valley at The Dominion Country Club.
Utah Valley began the day eight shots behind Southern Utah, but started out the final round on fire, at one point climbing to 11-under par and taking a two-stroke lead. Southern Utah then jumped into the lead by as many as three shots midway through the final round as Utah Valley faded.
Houston Baptist, behind the play of Preston Stanley (70), Andy Ariens (72), Hudson Hansard (72) and Jeffrey Merrell (75), stormed back and took the lead for good after 15 holes and held on to receive the America Sky's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. Merrell began his final round with a quintuple-bogey nine on the first hole and then double-bogeyed the third before catching fire on the back nine to finish with a 3-over par 75. Stanley played steadily throughout the day and finished with a 2-under 70 for a three-day total of 214, good enough for second place.
"This is an incredible feeling," HBU head coach David Shuster said. "To see the guys battle back from being so far down at the start of the day was tremendous. The way Jeffrey [Merrell] came back from his first three holes, to see Andy [Ariens] come back from a tough first two days and play so well [Wednesday], and little Huddy [Hansard] play well down the stretch, it is indescribable. And then to get a call from our president [Dr. Robert Sloan] congratulating the team on getting an NCAA bid, it's a great feeling."
Jordan Weir of defending champion Sacramento State won medalist honors with rounds of 72-70-71--213 on the difficult 6,827-yard Dominion course. He clinched the one-shot win with a birdie on the 18th hole. Stanley had rounds of 70-74-70--214 to finish second, while Ben Krueger from Northern Colorado (72-72-71) and HBU's Hansard (68-74-72) tied for third at 215.
Sacramento State's Ryan Williams had the best round of the day with a 4-under 68, despite a bogey on the final hole, to finish in a tie for fifth place at 216, along with Mason Casper of Utah Valley (74-71-71), Dan Yustin from Hartford (76-70-70) and Jake Holt from Southern Utah (72-73-71).