Originally created 05/21/05

Pacers prevail



SAVANNAH, Ga. - Clint Smith and Casey Thompson couldn't resist.

The University of South Carolina Aiken golf team had heard the official word. The Pacers won a second consecutive national title Friday, defeating Armstrong Atlantic State by five shots in the NCAA Division II National Championships at The Club at Savannah Harbor.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Thompson grabbed a cooler and sneaked up on coach Michael Carlisle, giving him the celebratory dousing, splashing his back with ice water.

"How could you miss my head, as big as it is?" Mr. Carlisle joked.

In windy conditions, USC Aiken carded a final-round 9-over-par 293 to finish 22-over and win by five shots. Junior Dane Burkhart birdied two of the final six holes to shoot 1-over 72 and win a medal by one shot over Hawaii-Hilo's Nick Mason.

After rounds of 71-68-68, Mr. Burkhart finished at 5 under. Mr. Mason shot a final-round 70.

For USC Aiken, it was quite the finish to a remarkable season. The Pacers won 11 of their 13 tournaments, including their final five events.

USC Aiken opened the championship with rounds of 294-288-283 and entered the final round with a four-shot advantage over Peach Belt Conference rival Armstrong Atlantic State.

The Pacers led the Pirates with nine holes remaining. But from there, no one knew the situation.

"I was just guessing on every hole," Mr. Smith said. "We'd try and communicate ... We didn't know if we were beating the Armstrong guys or not. It's rough not having any scoreboards out here."

When Mr. Burkhart tapped in for par on the final hole, word soon spread of USC Aiken's successful title defense.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.