Mississippi Gulf Coast's Colin Troxler won the individual national championship Friday, and the Bulldogs fell just short in their efforts to sweep the hardware in Mesa, Ariz.
Troxler was the only golfer in the 137-player field to finish under par, shooting 2-under over four days at Longbow Golf Club. Gulf Coast was five shots off host Mesa's 19-over to claim runner-up, the top finish in school history.
"It stings for the team. We really wanted to do this today," Troxler said. "I'm happy for myself, but I really wanted to win this for the team. Team means more than individual."
It's the fourth straight season the Bulldogs have finished in the top four at the national tournament. Gulf Coast came into the tournament ranked sixth and led after the first three rounds.
"It definitely stings," Gulf Coast coach Tommy Snell said. "When you get close, the old cliché is you don't get many chances to win a national championship. I really thought after the first day when we put five scores together, I really thought it was our tournament. We needed one more good solid round."
Troxler, a University of Louisiana signee, had his first round over par, but built enough cushion after three rounds under par. He beat Southeast's Noah Hofman by four shots.
Jackson Wedgeworth (Fr., West Jones/Soso) will join Troxler on the NJCAA Division II All-American First Team after finishing third at 2-over after a 76. Wedgeworth had the lowest round of the tournament Tuesday when he fired a 66.
Logan Leary (Fr., Gonzales/Dutchtown, La.) eagled 18 to finish 2-over, his best round of the week. Jonathon Newman (So., North Pike/Summit) matched him with a 73, getting there by making birdie on the last hole.
"Logan eagled 18, which really gave us hope. He hit it to 3 feet for eagle," Snell said. "At that point, we thought we were pretty far down. Johnny made a great up-and-down on 18. A great up-and-down."
Newman finished tied for 24th, Wyatt Adkison (So., East Central/Hurley) tied for 32nd and Leary tied for 34th. Newman earned NJCAA All-American honorable mention honors.
Snell and Troxler both pointed to a three-hole stretch on the back nine as the turning point Friday.
"We got beat on holes 15 through 17. That's where we lost it. Those are some hard holes, and we just didn't play them well."
The Bulldogs played those three holes 7-over, while Mesa, playing on its home course, was five shots better.
Two other MACJC participated in the tournament. Meridian (+60) finished sixth, and Co-Lin (+84) was 11th. Gulf Coast's finish ahead of Tyler, Murray State and South Mountain, the top three teams in the latest Bushnell Golfweek NJCAA Division II Coaches Poll, should prove inspirational.
"That does a lot for our conference," Snell said. "We led the national championship for three rounds. We were almost the wire-to-wire winners. That's' pretty impressive."
Snell said all year he thought this team was his best from No. 1 through 5 in his time at Gulf Coast. The Bulldogs won the first two MACJC tournaments of the season, but then didn't win another. Their streak of two straight state championships and nine straight region/district titles ended.
But this week in Mesa, Gulf Coast proved they were as good as Snell thought.
"We were right there in the hunt the whole time," Snell said. "The kids were playing solid. There wasn't any timidness on their part. Just nothing fell for us. It just wasn't in the cards."
NJCAA Division II Golf Tournament
Longbow Golf Course
7,050 yards, Par 71
Final round, Friday
Team top 10
|1. Mesa||287-292-287-289—1155 (+19)|
|2. Gulf Coast||277-293-294-296—1160 (+24)|
|3. Murray State||287-291-293-296—1164 (+19)|
|4. Tyler||285-301-292-306—1184 (+48)|
|5. South Mountain||293-394-309-293—1189 (+53)|
|6. Meridian||297-303-301-295—1196 (+60)|
|7. Illinois Central||296-299-297-313—1205 (+69)|
|T8. Kirkwood||300-301-303-303—1207 (+71)|
|T8. Southeast||313-289-298-307—1207 (+71)|
|10. Parkland||300-305-305-309—1219 (+83)|
|1. Colin Troxler||70-69-69-74—282 (-2)|
|3. Jackson Wedgeworth||66-74-71-76—287 (+3)|
|T24. Jonathon Newman||72-76-78-73—298 (+14)|
|T32. Wyatt Adkison||70-74-80-76—300 (+16)|
|T34. Logan Leary||76-76-76-73—301 (+17)|