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Kelly Hill | | May 22, 2014

Hill: Malone's seniors reach end of journey

  Nate Tarter helped Malone make the NCAA semifinals in the program's first year of eligibility.

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Nate Tarter had time to reflect late Thursday afternoon as he strode toward the 18th green at The Meadows, on the campus of Grand Valley State. Tarter, who is a senior at Malone, reflected on the end of the Pioneers' quest for the NCAA II national championship, as he knew they already had lost their semifinal match to Nova Southeastern. Standing over his final putt, the final stroke of his collegiate career, Tarter thought briefly about his years at Malone.

Tarter, Jon Clark, Jay Hollifield and Tyler Light ended their golf careers at Malone on Thursday afternoon when they lost to Nova Southeastern 3-2. Malone, which was tied with Central Missouri for fourth following the national championships' 54 holes of stroke play, defeated Central Missouri 4-1 in Thursday morning's quarterfinals.

Tarter fired a 2-under 69 Thursday morning and defeated Cy Moritz of Central Missouri by seven strokes in the quarterfinals. Tarter, who was tied for 17th following the 54 holes of stroke play, carded a 3-over 74 Thursday afternoon but still won his semifinal match, by one stroke over Nova Southeastern's Santiago Gomez, who led the stroke play standings after the first two rounds and who eventually finished third.

Malone, a former NAIA national men's golf champion, advanced to the NCAA II semifinals in its first full year of NCAA eligibility. “I had some time to think coming up 18,” Tarter said. “To do this, finishing fourth in stroke play and getting to the semis, that is a lot to be proud of.”

While he was naturally reflective late in his final round, Tarter didn't want to think too much of his collegiate career having come to an end. “It's tough to think about right now,” he said. “This is an awesome group of guys and it's sad that it has to end. We didn't reach our ultimate goal, but we had some chances out there today.”

Malone entered the national championships ranked No. 11 in the country. “Now maybe people will know where we're from,” Pioneers coach Ken Hyland said.

“This validates what we've always known about Malone, but this is our first chance on a stage like this,” Tarter said. “I think we let some people know who we are. We beat some very good teams at the regional and here.”

A sports management major at Malone, Tarter plans to work this summer at Firestone Country Club in Akron and plans to turn pro late this summer or early this fall. “I'd really rather not think about this all being over,” he said. “I had that in the back of my mind standing over that last putt, and I had that putt to win the match. I was pretty nervous over that putt.

“I wish I had a couple more years here,” Tarter concluded, “but the two and a half years I did have have been the best years of my life.”