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Hundreds welcome back ASU golfers

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Augusta State University golfer Olle Bengtsson sent a text to his girlfriend, eager to know how many people were waiting.

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Olle Bengtsson carries the championship trophy after arriving by bus at Julian Smith Casino. When the team's plane landed in Augusta, they were greeted by more than 60 people. A few hundred more waited for them at the casino with cameras and new T-shirts.  Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Olle Bengtsson carries the championship trophy after arriving by bus at Julian Smith Casino. When the team's plane landed in Augusta, they were greeted by more than 60 people. A few hundred more waited for them at the casino with cameras and new T-shirts.

When the golf team's plane landed in Augusta shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, Bengtsson saw there were more than 60 people, but that was just the beginning.

About 30 minutes later, the team arrived at Julian Smith Casino, where a few hundred fans waited for the Jaguars' arrival with cameras and new T-shirts, ready to celebrate the team's national championship.

"To get a bigger crowd and police escort is unbelievable," said Bengtsson, comparing the reception to the previous year. "You probably don't get this anywhere else."

While anticipating the team's arrival on a plane from Dallas, fans slipped on the blue T-shirts that read, "We are still the one! Back 2 Back."

Others held red, white and blue balloons and waved blue foam fingers to celebrate the team's arrival.

"It's pretty sweet to have Augusta react like this," said Carter Newman, who held the large championship trophy while he received congratulations from supporters. "It feels a lot like last year."

Lauren Hargrove, sister-in-law of outgoing Augusta State coach Josh Gregory, waited more than an hour for the team with her three boys and a crowd of other relatives.

"We're thrilled for him," Hargrove said. "This is what he's always wanted."

Gregory's three nephews held a sign that said, "Go Jags -- We love you Uncle Josh."

Augusta State alumna Patsy Pennington -- like so many others -- wanted to get in on the excitement.

"Any team that can knock off Georgia and Georgia Tech in (three) days deserves a lot of recognition," she said.

The team then made its way to the even larger gathering at Julian Smith Casino, and before the players got the chance to raise the championship trophy -- which was already covered with fresh fingerprints in some places -- fans chanted, "ASU! ASU!"

At the celebration, people were attached to the blue national championship shirts. Some had them draped over a shoulder, while others hurriedly put them on.

Then there was Newman's mother, Teena, who made a slight adjustment to her 2010 championship shirt.

She added yellow tape with the words "and 2011" in recognition of the consecutive titles. On the back, a longer strip read "OS ... WHO?" in reference to the Jaguars' upset win against tournament host Oklahoma State University in the semifinals.

As people made their way inside, Mayor Deke Copenhaver acknowledged the accomplishment of having a school the size of Augusta State win back-to-back titles despite going up against larger schools.

After Augusta State President William Bloodworth and Athletic Director Clint Bryant finished their short speeches, fans started to flood the front tables, looking for autographs and photo opportunities.

The golfers signed away with smiles, sometimes even bringing the championship trophy to add in pictures.

In some ways, it was a lot like last year. But to Mitch Krywulycz, this was greater.

"It's better, much better. It was better because we knew what we would miss out on if we didn't win," Krywulycz said about this year's title's meaning more than 2010's triumph.

"It's unbelievable. At big schools, this never happens (for golf). This is amazing."


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