AIKEN - It took awhile, but Francis Marion showed why it was the pre-tournament favorite in the Peach Belt Conference golf championship.
Defending champion Georgia College & State held a five-stroke over Francis Marion, which ended Friday's first round in third place at Woodside Plantation.
Francis Marion coach Jonathan Burnett wanted his team to utilize more patience when Saturday's final round got underway.
The fifth-year head coach got just that as his team made up the five-stroke deficit and went on to claim the title by that margin over the Bobcats. The Senators finished 21-over-par 597 with Georgia College & State finishing five shots back.
Host USC Aiken got better as the weekend went on, finishing in fourth place with a 609.
"We got off to a good start on Friday but had a couple of hiccups," Burnett said. "The conclusion we came up with was that we had got a little out of focus. That was the only goal coming back, to be patient and keep it simple. Fortunately for us it worked out."
Francis Marion came into the tournament ranked as the No. 9 team in the NCAA Division II poll.
After finishing third at Furman, second at Campbell, and third again in Valdosta, all in the past three weeks, Burnett felt his club was due for a win.
Francis Marion shot 304 on Friday to Georgia College and State's 299. And while the Bobcats didn't falter Saturday, they slipped just enough.
For the winners on Saturday, Dylan Keylock shot a 72 after posting a 76 in the opening round. Pablo Bossi mastered the biggest turnaround, scoring a 73 after a 82 on Friday. Coupled with the consistent play of Matt Dura, Francis Marion was able to shoot a tournament- low 5-over-par 293 Saturday.
Dura shot a 1-over-par 145 for the 36-hole tournament, one-stroke behind medalist Thomas Whittaker of Armstrong Atlantic.
It was the first time in three years that the host team has not claimed victory. Francis Marion won in 1999 when they hosted at Florence Country Club.
"That's kind of special to when outside of your own venue," Burnett added. "This was a great course to play. It was very intimidating. But I have five guys that don't give up. This is definitely a big boost."
But better didn't prove to be well enough for head coach Mike Carlisle, who left disappointed at his team's finish. Scot Usher scored a 72 on Friday, but faltered on Saturday with a 77.
While Usher's play weakened, as a team, Aiken was able to knock three-strokes off of its first round score.
"Even though today's round was better, it still wasn't good enough," Carlisle said. "But that's kind of the way our year has gone. I don't think the guys have lost confidence and I sure haven't lost confidence. But after you keeping getting beat up so bad, it does take a toll. We've got a lot of room for improvement."
597-Francis Marion (304-293). 602-Georgia College & State (299-303). 606-Columbus State (303-303). 609-USC Aiken (306-303). 611-Kennesaw State (308-303). 614-Armstrong Atlantic (310-304). 631-UNC Pembroke (322-309). 632-Clayton College and State (316-316).
Strong play from Augusta's John Engler has Clemson in position to successfully defend its title in the Atlantic Coast Conference men's golf tournament.
Clemson is in third place, just four shots behind leader Wake Forest, entering today's final 18-hole round at Disney's Magnolia course in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Georgia Tech is in second place, one shot behind Wake Forest.
Engler is the individual leader by three shots after rounds of 66-70. Georgia Tech's Bryce Molder, Virginia's Rusty Kennedy and Wake Forest's Bill Haas are tied for second place.
Augusta's Cortland Lowe had one of the counting scores for Wake Forest Saturday. Lowe, who opened with a 74 that was the high score on the team Friday, had a 75 Saturday as the Demon Deacons shot 5-under-par 283.
Georgia's Bryant Odom shot a 70 on Saturday to take the individual lead in the Southeastern Conference men's golf tournament, helping the Bulldogs to a 12-shot lead after two rounds at the Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course in Sea Island, Ga.
Odom's three-under total of 137 leads Florida's Camilo Villegas by two shots. Villegas also shot 70 on Saturday.
Georgia has a 559 total and leads the Gators by 12 shots. Auburn is third, another three strokes back. Augusta's Jay Mundy, of Auburn, moved into a tie for seventh place in the individual race after a 69 Saturday. Mundy, who opened with a 73, is five behind Odom.
The tournament concludes today with an 18-hole round.
Thomas Whittaker, Armstrong 71-73-144
Matt Dura, Francis Marion72-73-145
Luke Stephan, Kennesaw 73-73-146
Dylan Keylock, Francis Marion76-72-148
Patrico Vilaclara, Columbus St75-73-148
Scott Usher, Aiken72-77-149
Matt Avinger, Aiken76-75-151
Anton Haakman, Columbus State75-76-151
David Robinson, Ga. College82-70-152
Esteban Endere, Ga. College 73-79-152
Jamie Hunt, Aiken78-74-152
Paul Nourse, Columbus State77-75-152
Martinez Medrano, Ga. College77-75-152
John Martin, UNC Pembroke76-77-153
Augustin Estefanell, F Marion 77-76-153
Justin Estes, Clayton State76-77-153
Brandon Youmans, Ga. College State74-79-153
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