After winning their first NCAA Division I national championship in 2010, the Jaguars defied all odds and successfully defended their title. Despite being a Division II school playing against all the big boys in Division I, Augusta State never wavered in its quest for history.
When Patrick Reed clinched the final point in the championship match against Georgia, the Jaguars became the first team since Houston in 1984-85 to win back-to-back titles.
“We wanted this. We knew we could get it. And we went out and got it. Twice,” Augusta State golfer Carter Newman said afterward. “That’s pretty sweet.”
With two national titles, the Jaguars have as many golf championships as the Bulldogs. Augusta State also owns more national titles than Clemson (one), South Carolina (none) and Georgia Tech (none).
When Reed played at events during the second half of 2011, other golfers asked where he played in college. When he mentioned Augusta State, he’d receive a typical glowing response: “You’re part of the two-time national championship team.”
“It shows how hard we all worked at it and how much we wanted it,” Reed said.
The Jaguars, who defeated Oklahoma State in the finals in 2010 and then in the semifinals on the Cowboys’ home course a year later, etched their names into golf history as one of the greatest programs of all time. Augusta State’s starting lineup of Reed, Newman, Mitch Krywulycz and Henrik Norlander each won a pair of championships, while Olle Bengtsson and Taylor Floyd also contributed to the two titles.
Reed went 6-0 in two years of match play. In this year’s NCAA Championship in Stillwater, Okla., thousands of orange-clad Oklahoma State fans trekked to Karsten Creek to root for U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein in the semifinals. They left disappointed after Reed crushed the Cowboy, 8 and 7.
Norlander went 3-0 in match play in 2010 and added two clutch moments a year later. He delivered a crucial 69 in the second round of stroke play before knocking off home-state favorite Kevin Tway of Oklahoma State in the match play semifinals.
Newman went 5-1 in match play in the NCAA Championships. He saved his best for the 2011 semifinals, when he appeared to be in trouble against Oklahoma State’s Sean Einhaus. With their match all square, Einhaus two-putted for par at No. 17. Newman faced a downhill, 30-foot attempt to save his match – and save Augusta State’s season. When the putt rolled true, breaking a foot from left to right into the heart of the cup, Newman unleashed a loud Jaguar roar. He went on to deliver two more clutch birdie putts on the next two holes to help Augusta State upend Oklahoma State, 3-2.
“I can’t believe I just did that,” Newman repeated afterward on the course.
Krywulycz will be remembered for rallying from a 4-down deficit with seven holes to play against Tway to clinch the Jaguars’ first national championship. The red-headed Aussie also defeated Georgia’s Hudson Swafford in a key match in the 2011 finals.
Floyd played through flulike symptoms to win an inspiring point in the 2010 semifinals. In 2011, Bengtsson posted a much-needed 75 in the second round of stroke play on a blustery day when just 17 of 154 players shot under-par.
When Augusta State returned home, it enjoyed all the perks of winning a second national title – an impromptu celebration at the airport, another parade and another banquet. While the Jaguars celebrated, the school made changes. Kevin McPherson, the former women’s coach who served as an assistant coach during the NCAA Championships, was hired as Augusta State’s men’s coach in July. He replaced two-time national coach of the year Josh Gregory, who left in June to become head golf coach at his alma mater, Southern Methodist University.
“It seems like it’s been six days, not six months,” McPherson said. “It’s been a whirlwind with Josh leaving and me coming in. Everything has happened so fast.”
Augusta State is making no promises of a three-peat in 2012. The Jaguars lost all five starters off its national championship squad. McPherson is hopeful his team will make the NCAA Regional. Then, anything can happen.
“I don’t even know what you do for an encore,” McPherson said. “If we can make it to postseason, then it’s a successful year. Then we can see where it goes from there.”