AIKEN — With its back against the wall this spring, Augusta State bounced back in a big way Tuesday.
The Jaguars closed with the day’s low round, 2-over-par 282, to win the Palmetto Intercollegiate by seven shots over South Carolina at Palmetto Golf Club.
After a mediocre fall, the Jaguars notched their second consecutive win to move closer to .500 – the prerequisite for qualifying for postseason play.
The Jaguars now must defeat seven teams in their final two events of the spring, the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (March 24-26) and Augusta State Invitational (April 6-7), to earn a trip back to the NCAA Division I Regionals.
“We know what we have to do,” said Jaguar freshman Maverick Antcliff, who closed with 4-under-par 66 to tie for third place individually. “There’s no sugarcoating it.”
Augusta State entered the day tied for third, three shots behind the Gamecocks. But the Jaguars got a big boost from Alex Wennstam (70, tie for sixth place) and Antcliff.
Antcliff, who joined the starting lineup in February, fired wedge shots to 31/2 feet for birdie at No. 1, 4 feet for birdie at No. 2 and 2 feet for birdie at No. 4.
“He’s one of those players where you take out a No. 5 player and you put in a No. 1,” Augusta State coach Kevin McPherson said. “It’s a big difference. That’s a dozen shots a tournament.”
With Antcliff in the lineup, the Jaguars pulled off their biggest clutch performance since winning their second consecutive NCAA Division I Championship in 2011.
Finishing at 16-over-par 856, Augusta State surged past South Carolina (final-round 293, 863 total). Clemson closed with 287 to tie for third at 864 with N.C. State. USC Aiken shot 300 to finish eighth at 880.
The good news for the Pacers came when senior Matt Atkins closed with 70 to finish at 4-under-par 206 for his
second college victory. He finished two ahead of Virginia’s Mac McLaughlin (73). South Carolina’s Matt NeSmith, of North Augusta, shot 72 to tie for third with Antcliff, three shots off the lead.
After rolling in a 12-foot eagle putt at No. 10, Atkins cruised along at 6-under for the event until he missed the green long at the par-3 16th. After carding bogey, he followed suit with another missed green for bogey one hole later. He closed with par.