NEWTON, Kan. (May 15, 2015) - Forced into a playoff for second place following its worst round of the four that comprised the 2015 NJCAA Men’s Division I National Championship, Eastern Florida State College’s golf team prevailed on Friday, giving head coach Jamie Howell his best nationals finish in his 13 seasons.
Playing at Sand Creek Station in Newton, Kan., Eastern Florida carded a final round 302 to finish the regulation 72 holes tied with McLennan Community College of Texas at 1,165. McLennan shot 295 on Friday.
Indian Hills Community College of Iowa won the championship, shooting a final round 301 to finish at 1,162.
District 4 champion Eastern Florida State, ranked No. 1 nationally by Golfstat.com and No. 2 by the NJCAA, began Friday in second place, two strokes behind Indian Hills.
On the upside for Eastern Florida State, freshman Kerry Sweeney, a PING first-team All-America selection and winner of the Phil Mickelson Award Presented by the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation as the most outstanding freshman in NJCAA Division I Men’s Golf, finished tied for second individually with classmate and teammate Mickey DeMorat, both at 283.
Vetle Moray of Odessa College of Texas won the individual national championship at 281.
Sweeney shot 71 on Friday to 74 for DeMorat, who led after Wednesday’s second round. Sweeney, DeMorat and sophomore Drew Cooke, who finished tied for 13th at 293 thanks to Friday’s round of 76, earned NJCAA first-team All-America honors. They join soccer players and first team All-Americas Abbie Camargo and Kyle Carr as Eastern Florida Student-Athletes of the Year.
First team NJCAA All-America honors are bestowed on the top 18 nationals finishers.
Eastern Florida freshman Corey Herman finished tied for 48th at 306 after an 81 on Friday and sophomore Brad Gray finished tied for 61st at 311 after Friday’s 82.
Eastern Florida won the playoff in which all five players from each team play one hole with the four low scores counting.
“We scored four pars and McLennan scored three pars and a bogey,” Howell said. “The guys did a good job of manning up for the playoff.”
Eastern Florida shot 290, 294 and 279 for the tournament’s first three rounds but struggled on the back nine on both Thursday and Friday.
“It was close, but we just didn’t quite finish it off,” Howell said. “The last two holes got us each day. Hats off to Indian Hills as they hung in there today and weathered the storm. We pushed them and at several points we were tied but we didn’t close the gap at the end.
“The golf course played much more difficult today as the Kansas winds finally arrived (15 – 30 mph). It was an awesome week for Sweeney and DeMorat tying for second individually and earning NJCAA All-American honors along with Drew Cooke.
“While finishing second wasn’t what we were after it is an excellent opportunity for the guys to learn how tight high caliber competitive golf really is. When they reflect upon the week they will take away what they did well and what we can do to improve before next year’s event.
“It was quite a year for the team. There was no shortage of trophies and accolades earned by the guys. Time for a little break and then start preparing for 2015-2016.”
The Titans made their 13th straight nationals appearance and competed for the 46th time in the tournament’s 56-year history. They have won seven national titles, the most recent in 1991.
The Titans best previous finish under Howell was third on three occasions.
Golf was the third Eastern Florida State team to reach its respective national tournament in the 2014-2015 academic year.
Women’s soccer, making its third consecutive appearance, reached the semifinals of the Women’s Division I tournament held on the Melbourne Campus while men’s basketball lost in the first round of the Division I tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Eastern Florida State College hosts the 2016 national golf tournament in May at Duran Golf Club in Viera.