Day 6: Match play

Mitch Krywulycz, a three-time state champion in Australia, sought an opportunity to play golf in the United States. His friend Aron Price, a former Georgia Southern golfer, recommended the Statesboro school. Krywulycz also checked out Augusta State.

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Augusta State's Mitch Krywulycz (center) is congratulated by teammate Carter Newman (left) after the team's win.  Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Augusta State's Mitch Krywulycz (center) is congratulated by teammate Carter Newman (left) after the team's win.

In summer 2006, the Sylvania, Australia, native traveled to the Southeast U.S. to play a slate of amateur events. Augusta State coach Josh Gregory and his wife, Ashley, followed Krywulycz for one round of the Dogwood Invitational in Atlanta. When she witnessed Krywulycz throwing clubs, Ashley said he wasn't a good fit for the program. Her husband allowed him to visit anyway, and eventually signed him.

On the first day of team qualifying in the fall of his freshman year, Krywulycz was 1-under-par at the 18th hole. When he tossed a club, Gregory threw him off the course and followed him back to his house. The coach and his young player had a two-hour, come-to-Jesus meeting.

"You're a good kid," Gregory told him, "but you look like a jerk on the course."

Krywulycz spent his first two seasons growing up on and off the course. In that span, he recorded only one top 20 finish and owned a career average of 75.5. Before the 2008-09 season, Krywulycz walked into Gregory's office and requested a redshirt to work on his schoolwork and sharpen his golf game. Gregory agreed, and the move paid off.

With a fresh start, the fiery Krywulycz showed a newfound maturity. He posted six top 20 finishes in 11 events and a 72.23 average leading up to the NCAA Championships.

"I felt like I would've been a very mediocre player last year. I wouldn't have been able to do much for the team," he said. "It seemed like a good fit for everyone."

In three rounds of medal play at The Honors Course, Krywulycz remained steady. Despite a 3-over start on the first four holes of the first round, he came back to shoot 72. Krywulycz followed with 74-72 to help his team advance to match play.

Krywulycz struggled when the format changed. He lost his first match to Georgia Tech's James White at No. 17. Then, Florida State's Seath Lauer closed him out at No. 15.

It appeared Krywulycz was in trouble again when he faced Oklahoma State's Kevin Tway, the No. 16 player in the nation. While Krywulycz shot 5-over the first five holes and fell 4-down, Augusta State still seemed in good shape against mighty Oklahoma State.

Henrik Norlander and Patrick Reed jumped on U.S. Walker Cup teammates Morgan Hoffmann and Peter Uihlein early. Norlander won six of the first eight holes and cruised to a 5 and 4 win. After losing the first hole, Reed rebounded to take a 4-up lead through seven. Reed closed out Uihlein, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, at No. 16.

With Carter Newman's 2 and 1 loss to Sean Einhaus, the Jaguars led 2-1. With Krywulycz down four holes to Tway with seven remaining, Augusta State's chances of a national championship would come down to Taylor Floyd, who still was battling flulike symptoms, in the final match of the day. After taking an IV before his match, Floyd won three of his first four holes. He was all square with Trent Whitekiller through 13 holes.

"I had pretty much written off that match," Gregory said of Krywulycz. "I thought Taylor was going to have the deciding match."

Despite Krywulycz's winning par at No. 12, Tway was in control -- up three holes with six to play. Then, Krywulycz knocked his approach to five feet for birdie at No. 13. At the par-3 14th, he fired his tee shot to a foot to win his third hole in a row.

Riding the momentum, Krywulycz rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt to even the match at No. 15.

"Once we got to the 16th tee," he said, "I knew it was getting pretty real and I was back in this and it was on."

Krywulycz and Tway went to No. 18 all square. After Tway hit his approach to 25 feet, Krywulycz missed the green to the right, leaving himself a 30-foot chip. He knocked his third shot five feet short. After Tway two-putted for par, Krywulycz buried the knee- knocking putt to extend the match.

"I was so nervous, I didn't even feel the putter come back," Krywulycz told Gregory afterward.

Newman, who looked on from the gallery, said: "That putt on 18, my heart was racing."

At the short par-4 first hole, the opening hole of the sudden-death playoff, Krywulycz faced a slippery 20-foot birdie putt. If he missed, he knew, the ball would trickle down a slope. He stroked his putt on line, but the ball stopped six inches short.

Tway faced an 18-foot birdie try from the same side of the green, just to the right of Krywulycz's attempt. The Oklahoma State junior got a little too aggressive, and his putt slid by five feet. When Tway's comebacker fell off to the left, the Augusta State celebration began.

"He went for the win. You've got to congratulate him for bravery there," Krywulycz said.

Floyd, who faced an eagle putt to go 1-up at No. 17, watched the victory play out through the trees. When Tway missed the putt, Floyd threw down his putter and wrapped his arms around Gregory.

Soon after, Newman ran up and embraced Gregory. As they shared an emotional hug, Newman yelled out, "I can't believe we finally did it!"

Augusta State had just pulled one of the most monumental upsets in collegiate golf history. With a 3-1-1 victory, the Jaguars brought home a trophy that the community and the school had been thirsting for.

"There is not a university that's going to appreciate this more than Augusta State," Gregory said. "No other town is going to enjoy this more than we will."

On the course, the team celebrated with more than 100 Augusta State fans in attendance and later accepted what it came for -- the national championship trophy. After photos and media interviews, the Jaguars departed Ooltewah, grabbed some fast food and headed home.

When the team arrived home in the darkness, the excitement of winning had yet to subside. Augusta State fans loudly applauded and cheered as Gregory and his players left the van.

The team full of heroes soaked in the gracious welcome. After a week's worth of highlights, Augusta State received one more to cap its national championship week.

"Everybody just went nuts," Newman said. "It sent chills down my spine. It was unbelievable."

When he awoke Tuesday morning, Newman sent a text to Krywulycz. He asked whether his teammate wanted to go over to the school's golf house just to look at the national championship trophy.

Together, they looked at the award and soaked it all in.

Mitch Krywulycz

Junior - Sylvania, Australia

Stroke average: 72.26

Top-20 finishes: Six

NCAA Championship highlight: Drained 18-foot birdie putt at No. 15 to win his fourth consecutive hole and square his match with Oklahoma State's Kevin Tway in the championship round.

TOURNAMENT FINISH SCORES

Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Inv. T38 80-72-73--225

Gary Koch Intercollegiate T17 70-69-74--213

Brickyard Collegiate Championship T28 72-74--146

UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate T4 69-69-70--208

Gifford Collegiate Championship T38 77-72-69--218

Seahawk Intercollegiate T6 70-74--144

General Hackler Championship T22 81-71-75--227

Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate T17 72-68-73--213

Administaff Augusta St. Invitational T3 71-68-67--206

PING Cougar Classic T34 79-72-68--219

NCAA Southwest Regional T11 75-71-74--220

NCAA Championship* T51 72-74-72--218

*Went 1-2 in match play at national championships


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