April 22, 2014
Pinehurst, N.C. - Western Carolina junior J.T. Poston led from start to finish, completing his individual championship run with a final round, even-par, 72, for a three-round score of 10-under par, 206, to win the 2014 Southern Conference Men's Golf Championship which concluded Tuesday at the par-72, 7,122-yard National Golf Club.
No. 47 Georgia Southern shot a five-over par, 293, in Tuesday's final round to edge Chattanooga for a one-stroke win, 873-to-874. WCU, which held at least a share of the lead in the all three rounds, slipped to fourth in the overall standings at 878, just five strokes off the pace and only one in arrears of third-place finishing, UNCG (877). WCU's fourth-place showing is its best since a third-place finish in 2009.
GSU claimed the SoCon's automatic bid to a NCAA Regional, which will be played May 15-17, while Poston earned the league's automatic individual bid. Their destinations will be revealed at 10:00 am on May 5 on the Golf Channel.
Poston, the 13th-ranked golfer nationally, is the fourth different Catamount men's golfer to claim the program's fifth individual medalist honor all-time. Matt Cook was a two-time individual champion in 2006 and 2008 with Kelly Leonhardt (1987) and Bruce Kullman (1991) also winning top conference honors.
All told, the conference championship is the fifth individual first-place finish for Poston this year, who in addition to earning All-Southern Conference plaudits on Tuesday was also crowned the 2014 SoCon Men's Golfer of the Year.
"I'm really proud of all of the guys - they really showed a lot of heart and a lot of potential," said WCU first-year head coach, Bryant Odom. "Coming into the event, if you would have given us fourth place with some of the ups and downs we've had this year, we would have been excited. But after taking the tournament lead and holding into today, it was a little disappointing to come home in fourth place. But, the young guys will learn from it. I'm glad Collin (Witiak) was a part of it in his final tournament, and I couldn't be happier for J.T. (Poston). He's already focused on regional play. The next big step for him is to win and advance to the NCAA finals."
Odom added, "During the past couple of days, I had a lot of coaches come up and congratulate us on the way we were playing, and encourage me - and were happy for us. That's a good feeling. Knowing that your peers see what's going on with your program. A lot of good stuff happened for us this week."
Opening his final round with an eight-stroke advantage, Poston stumbled on his first hole with the lone double-bogey he carded over his 54-hole tournament. He rebounded to chart six-consecutive pars before his first birdie of the final round on the par-5, eighth, making the turn at one-over. Poston scored birdie on the par-5 10th and the par-4 16th to move to one-under for the round before bogeying the par-3 17th for a second-straight day to finish even for the final 18 holes.
Poston finished the event with 38 pars, fourth overall, with 12 birdies which ranked tied for the second-most in the 50-golfer field. He led the way in par-4 scoring, shooting five-under (3.83) while ranking second in par-5 scoring at six-under (4.50).
"Right now, I've got a lot of mixed emotions," said Poston during the ride back to Cullowhee. "Coming into the week, I wanted to get the individual win, but also see the team finish well. I got the individual championship and we put ourselves into a good spot coming into the day as a team. But to finish fourth is a little disappointing. We'll take a lot of things from this experience and learn from this, and take them into next year as a team."
Poston, who will make his second appearance in the NCAA regional field coming in consecutive seasons, added that he's anxious to learn his destination to start preparing for what the course will hold in store for him.
"Until I learn where I'll be playing, my main focus is to keep a club in my hand," Poston added.
Chattanooga's Chris Robb turned in a bogey-free round of seven-under 65 Tuesday - the lowest round in the SoCon tournament since 2001 - to nearly chase down Poston. Robb settled for runner-up honors with an eight-under, 208 (74-69-65).
Western Carolina's Matthew Turner and Tyler Lail finished tied for 15th overall in the final standings with three-round scores of 222. Turner split the difference from his previous two rounds, shooting two-over, 74, on Tuesday. The Hickory, N.C., native carded three bogies and a birdie on the front nine to make the turn at two-over par. He moved back to one-over with a birdie on the par-4 11th and was poised to carry that into the clubhouse until a bogey on the par-4 18th for a third-consecutive round.
Lail bookended his final round with scores over par including a triple-bogey to start the day and a double-bogey to conclude it. In between, the Conover, N.C., product hovered within 3-to-5 strokes of even par. Back-to-back bogies on No. 8 and 9 left him at five-over making the turn. He rebounded, though, with consecutive birdies to start his back nine to claw back to three-over par, finishing his round with a bogey on No. 14 and the double on the final hole for six-over, 78.
Turner paced the field in par-3 scoring at two-under (2.83) on the shortest holes while Lail matched Poston in par-5 scoring at six-under (4.50).
Collin Witiak came home tied for 32nd overall at 228, slipping 12 spots in the final standings after a final round, six-over 78 while freshman Nont Panayanggool finished his final round with a pair of birdies, shooting 10-over par, 82, for a three-day score of 237. Witiak, playing in his final event for the Purple & Gold, made the turn at two-over par before his lone birdie of the final 18 on the par-5 10th. He scored bogey on five of his final six holes.
GSU and UTC entered the day in second and third place, respectively, but overtook first- and second-round leader, Western Carolina, early Tuesday. The teams traded the lead throughout the day, and Robb rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt on 17 to close the Mocs' deficit to just one stroke entering the final hole.
With the team championship on the line, Robb's 25-foot birdie try on No. 18 - which would have tied the teams and sent them to a playoff - rolled just over the hole, securing the team win for the Eagles.
Furman and Wofford tied for Tuesday's low round with identical five-under 283s. The Paladins finished sixth at 882, while the Terriers were next in line at 892. Appalachian State turned in a 293 Tuesday to move up two spots to eighth place (913), while Elon (916) and Samford (925) rounded out the field.
SoCon Player of the Year:
J.T. Poston, Western Carolina
SoCon Freshman of the Year:
Carter Jenkins, UNCG
SoCon Coach of the Year:
Larry Mays, Georgia Southern
Richard Fountain, Davidson
Will Evans, Georgia Southern
Charlie Martin, Georgia Southern
Scott Wolfes, Georgia Southern
Taylor Coalson, UNCG
Roy Dixon, UNCG
Carter Jenkins, UNCG
Liam Johnston, Chattanooga
Chris Robb, Chattanooga
J.T. Poston, Western Carolina
Bryce Howell, Furman
Carter Jenkins, UNCG
Wes Gosselin, Chattanooga
Ewan Scott, Chattanooga
Andrew Novak, Wofford