Augusta State wins national title

 

OOLTEWAH, Tenn. --- As Mitch Krywulycz secured the match-clinching point, Taylor Floyd threw down his putter at the 17th green Sunday and tossed his arms around Augusta State coach Josh Gregory.

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

Believe it.

On a day made for heroes, the Jaguars slayed mighty Oklahoma State in the championship match of the NCAA Division I Golf Champ-ionships at The Honors Course. With its 3-1-1 win over one of the greatest programs of all time, No. 5 Augusta State won one for the small schools, capturing the first NCAA national title in school history.

"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."

After Henrik Norlander and Patrick Reed won their matches in dominating fashion, Krywulycz recorded a comeback for the ages. The junior from Australia overcame a four-hole deficit with seven holes to play to force a sudden-death playoff. At the first extra hole, the par-4 first, Krywulycz clinched the match with a two-putt par, while Oklahoma State's Kevin Tway missed a five-foot par attempt.

Floyd and Gregory looked on and watched history unfold through the trees.

"I can't describe it," Floyd said. "It's unbelievable."

"It's a dream come true," Newman added.

Augusta State entered the week with three wins among nine consecutive top-five finishes. In the national championship, the Jaguars survived three days of medal play, qualifying as the sixth of eight teams for match play.

In the new format, Augusta State knocked off Atlantic Coast Conference champion Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals, 3-2. In the semifinals, the Jaguars pulled out another close victory, besting Florida State, 4-1.

In the championship match, Augusta State, a Division II school that plays only golf in Division I, faced off against top-ranked Oklahoma State, a university loaded with money, prestige and tradition. The Cowboys entered with 10 national championships and a current roster that features 2009 U.S. Walker Cup members Peter Uihlein and Morgan Hoffman, two of four players on the team ranked among the top 46 in the nation.

Oklahoma State, which won five tournaments during the season, won medal play by four shots over Florida State and entered match play as the No. 1 seed.

Augusta State was not intimidated.

Norlander, who finished fifth in medal play and won his first two matches, crushed Hoffman. The junior from Sweden won six of the first eight holes and finished off Hoffman, 5 and 4.

"I knew they're a great team and I knew I had to play well today and set the pace," Norlander said. "I couldn't get off to a better start."

Reed struggled the first two days of medal play but rebounded in the third round and then won his first two matches. After losing the first hole to Uihlein, Reed won the next three and frustrated his opponent at No. 7. After Uihlein conceded a two-foot par putt to Reed, the Augusta State sophomore did not give his opponent a three-footer. Uihlein then lipped out his par putt and smacked his ball into the water after falling four down. Reed went on to win 4 and 2.

"I would've bet a lot of money those two matches would've gone to the 17th and 18th holes," Gregory said. "Those were heavyweight fights there. Those are four of the best players in college golf."

With those two matches in the bag, Augusta State needed one more point. Newman, who shot key 73 in the final round of medal play and then won two clutch matches, had putting problems and lost to Sean Einhaus, 2 and 1. And Krywulycz was in trouble.

It appeared the team's chances would come down to Floyd, who played his second consecutive day with flulike symptoms. He said he felt terrible when he awoke Sunday morning after not getting much sleep. But he decided to give it a try, and he received an IV at the course.

"I just kind of told myself I had to," Floyd said. "It's the national championship."

Floyd birdied the first hole and jumped out to a 3-up lead through four holes over Trent Whitekiller. Floyd eventually lost his lead and fell down a hole before rolling in a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 16 to pull even. By then, Krywulycz was making his charge.

After playing steady in medal play, Krywulycz lost his first two matches -- the lone Jaguar yet to win a match. He then faced Tway, the No. 16 player in the nation.

Krywulycz lost the opening hole then hit his second into an unplayable lie on the second hole and conceded. At 5-over through five holes, Krywulycz was 4-down.

Tway seemed to be in control, leading 4-up with seven to play. Then, Krywulycz parred No. 12 to win a hole and struck his approach to five feet for birdie at No. 13. At the par-3 14th, he stuck his tee shot to a foot to win his third hole in a row.

Krywulycz then 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."

At the closing hole, Krywulycz faced a daunting five-foot par putt to extend the match. He buried it.

"That putt on 18," Newman said, "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 slide 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, his putt sliding by five feet. When Tway missed the comebacker, the Augusta State celebration began.

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

Augusta State still was in shock an hour after pulling off the school's greatest sporting feat.

"I'm sure it'll hit me in the morning when I awake that somehow we're national champions," Gregory said.

Fans gather to congratulate national champ Jags
Road to the title

Quarterfinals

Augusta State beat

Georgia Tech 3-2

Carter Newman rolled in a five-foot bogey putt at No. 18 to claim the first point for the Jaguars. Later, Georgia Tech's Chesson Hadley appeared to have tied his match with Patrick Reed (above) until Reed responded with a 15-foot dagger to win 1-up. Henrik Norlander parred No. 18 to clinch the match.

SEMIFINALS

Augusta State beat

Florida State 4-1

Newman came through again with the team's first point. Taylor rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the last to win 2-up. Norlander (left), who lost two of his first three holes to Drew Kittleson (right), spun an 84-yard lob wedge shot back into the hole for eagle at No. 17 to win 3 and 1. Reed later added a 1-up win.

CHAMPIONSHIP

Augusta State beat Oklahoma State 3-1-1

Norlander jumped on Morgan Hoffman, winning five of the first six holes en route to a 5 and 4 win. Reed also dominated Peter Uihlein, 4 and 2. Mitch Krywulycz, who trailed by four holes with seven to play, rallied to force a sudden-death playoff. While Kevin Tway three-putted for bogey at the first hole, Krywulycz parred the hole to clinch the title. Floyd (above) halved his match after Augusta State won it.

Results

At The Honors Course

Chattanooga, Tenn.

Yardage: 7,395; Par 72

Match Play

Finals

(Seedings in parentheses)

(6) Augusta State beat

(1) Oklahoma State 3-1-1

Sean Einhaus, Oklahoma State, def. Carter Newman, Augusta State, 2 and 1

Trent Whitekiller, Oklahoma State, and Taylor Floyd, Augusta State, Halved

x-Mitch Krywulycz, Augusta State, and Kevin Tway, Oklahoma State, Halved

Patrick Reed, Augusta State, def. Peter Uihlein, Oklahoma State, 4 and 2

Henrik Norlander, Augusta State, def. Morgan Hoffmann, Oklahoma State, 5 and 4

x-Single-hole playoff won by Mitch Krywulycz, Augusta State

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