Originally created 05/24/05

Champions again

Successful athletes will tell you it's always tougher to stay at the top than to get there. Hence, it follows that the only achievement harder than winning a coveted championship is to defend it successfully. This is why the University of South Carolina Aiken golf team is being heralded today by the CSRA sports community.

Dane Burkhart led coach Michael Carlisle's Pacers last week to the team's second straight NCAA Division II National title, finishing four rough rounds of golf at Savannah Harbor at 22-over, five shots under Peach Belt Conference rival Armstrong Atlantic State.

The NCAA championship capped USC Aiken's finest season ever, posting 11 victories in 13 events, the past five consecutively.

Burkhart shot rounds of 71, 68 and 68, but his main dramatics came in the last round, when he birdied two of the final six holes to finish 1-over-par 72, and ice the title for his team and win individual medal honors for himself.

A remarkable performance - and not the first time. Burkhart recorded 12 top-10 finishes, ending the season with a school record 71.74 stroke average, earning him the Arnold Palmer Award as the NCAA Division II national champion medalist, and the Jack Nicklaus Award for Division II player of the year.

Burkhart is only a junior, so he and his team will have a tough act to follow next year - their own. But having climbed the mountain twice, we wouldn't bet against a Pacers three-peat.


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