Augusta State’s Big Four – Newman, Mitch Krywulycz, Henrik Norlander and Patrick Reed – each helped lead the Jaguars to a pair of national championships in 2010 and 2011. One year later, the feeling of a commuter school, one that plays Division II in every sport except golf, knocking off the nation’s biggest schools in back-to-back seasons still remains strong.
“I’ve been meaning to ask Mitch and the other guys if they think about it as much as I do,” Newman said. “Even now, a year later, it’s still amazing.”
Augusta State’s reign atop college golf officially ends today when a new champion is crowned at the NCAA Division I Championships at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Yet, the Jaguars will always savor their lasting legacy that will be remembered for years to come.
One year after Augusta State became the first school in 26 years to win consecutive national titles, all of the players on the two starting lineups are finished with college golf. Here’s a look at what they’re doing now:
• Olle Bengtsson, who played on the 2011 team, served this past year as a graduate assistant coach for the Augusta State golf program.
• Taylor Floyd, who played on the 2010 squad, shot consecutive rounds of 70 and missed the cut in his first professional event, this week’s ComSouth Classic on the NGA Tour. He plans to graduate in December.
• Krywulycz and Norlander are playing full-time on the eGolf Tour. Entering this week’s tournament, Krywulycz was 12th on the money list with almost $30,000, while Norlander was 33rd ($14,696). Krywulycz, who has a U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday, plans to continue traveling with Norlander to a smorgasbord of Nationwide Tour Monday qualifiers and eGolf Tour events the rest of the year.
Norlander, a native of Sweden, could have received 10 starts on the European Tour’s Challenge Tour this year, but instead he obtained his P-1 visa and will
remain in the United States for at least the next five years. He moved back to Europe last summer, but he decided to return to his second home.
“I love Augusta,” he said. “Long term, I felt like it’s better for me living over here.”
• After getting a sponsor’s exemption into April’s Valero Texas Open, Reed survived three consecutive PGA Tour Monday qualifiers. In four events, he’s earned $116,205, and he received a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic. He needs to earn another $296,000 to receive status the rest of the year on the PGA Tour. Reed plans to marry his fiancée, Justine Karain, in December.
• Newman has given up professional golf for now. He planned to play a full slate of eGolf events this year, but an MRI in February revealed a labrum tear in his shoulder.
In March, Newman got engaged to his girlfriend, Chase Lowther – they’re planning to get married in September. In April, he took a job as an inside sales representative at Augusta Sportswear. Also in April, he auditioned for The Big Break, the popular reality TV show on The Golf Channel.
“I just wanted to see what it’s all about,” he said. “Given the Augusta State background, it’d be a cool story.”
Newman, 24, said he expects to hear whether he’s selected for the show this month. If chosen, he’d have to take two weeks off from his new job for filming later in the summer.
“Honestly,” he said, “I don’t know if I’d be able to do it.”
MANY THOUGHT Augusta State wouldn’t be able to do it either – win one national championship, much less two. Yet, it all began in 2010 in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.
At The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., the Jaguars finished seventh in stroke play in the 30-team field to advance to match play. In the quarterfinals, Newman, Norlander and Reed each won their matches on the final hole, with Reed rolling in a clutch 15-foot birdie putt after his opponent, Chesson Hadley, drained a 30-foot birdie putt.
In the semifinals, Floyd overcame flu-like symptoms for an inspirational victory over Florida State’s Wesley Graham. After besting the Seminoles, the Jaguars set up a showdown with one of college golf’s premier programs, Oklahoma State.
Norlander and Reed blistered their opponents from the start, giving Augusta State two quick points. Then, Krywulycz posted a comeback from the ages, rallying from a 4-stroke deficit with 7 holes to play to defeat Kevin Tway on the first hole of sudden death overtime. Krywulycz’s clinching point sent Augusta State home with its first national trophy, and three months later the team was honored at the White House.
“There’s so many things I can replay in my mind that happened right in front of me,” Krywulycz said. “There’s nothing I’m going to do in golf that I’ll care more about.”
Some naysayers thought Augusta State’s victory was a fluke. So when the Jaguars returned to the national championship the next year at Oklahoma State’s home course, Karsten Creek, they brought plenty of motivation.
AUGUSTA STATE, with Bengtsson replacing Floyd in the starting lineup, maneuvered its way through stroke play. Bengtsson posted a key 75 in the second round, while his teammates shot 1-over on the final five holes of the third round. The Jaguars finished seventh, advancing to match play by two shots.
Again, Augusta State faced Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals and won. The Jaguars advanced to play Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys had plenty of support with 5,000 orange-clad fans turning their semifinal match into a competition more like the Ryder Cup than a college semifinal.
While Reed throttled Peter Uihlein for the second year in a row, Norlander received a cold reception as he defeated Kevin Tway.
It all came down to Newman, who faced a downhill 30-foot par putt on No. 17 to stay all square in his match with Sean Einhaus. After draining the putt, Newman stayed alive with a five-foot birdie putt at No. 18. On the first hole of sudden death, Newman – nicknamed “Captain Clutch” – dropped his six-foot birdie try to send Augusta State to the finals against Georgia.
Against the Bulldogs, Krywulycz and Newman each won their matches, setting up a showdown between Reed and Harris English. Reed took a 2-up lead through 16 holes, and the match was all but over when English found water left of the 17th green.
Augusta State celebrated a second national title, proving the first championship wasn’t a fluke. The Jaguars even made it back to the postseason this year, despite losing everyone in the lineup but Floyd.
When Augusta State played in May’s Athens Regional, Krywulycz and Newman drove up to support their program. During the four-hour round trip, they mostly talked about the national championships.
“I had so many great memories,” Newman said. “That’s something I think about every day.”