May 19 was a day of firsts for Wittenberg’s Mens Golf Team as the program claimed its first NCAA Division III National Championship and Garrett Brickley, ’17, finished runner-up in the 72-hole tournament at Mission Inn Resort in Howey in the Hills, Florida.
Wittenberg came into the tournament as the 10th ranked team in the country, according to the GCAA poll. In a wild two days, that had seen several lead changes, the Tigers were able to edge out top-ranked Huntingdon College, second-ranked Texas and 17th-ranked Guilford College in an exciting fashion to earn the right to carry the title of 2017 National Champions.
The Tigers started the final round in first place, but flip-flopped back and fourth on the leaderboard with Guilford College throughout the entire day until it came down to the final two holes to decide who the winner would be. Brickley birdied the final two holes to give Wittenberg the two strokes the team needed to secure the victory. Both teams shot 293 on the day, but Wittenberg prevailed with 1180 total strokes, two better than Guilford’s 1182.
Once the tournament was all said and done, there was a tie for first place individually between Brickley and Josh Gibson of Hope College. Despite Brickley’s outstanding performance earning him the highest individual finish in program history, he couldn’t quite fend off Gibson in the one-hole playoff to decide who the top golfer was at the tournament.
Other members of Wittenberg’s championship team were Cameron Willis, ’20 (T-18, 297), Sam Stillwell, ’17 (T-24, 298), Colin Laszlo, ’19 (41, 303) and Mark Wright, ’17 (42, 304).
“Being one of the five guys that were down in Florida to win the national championship was very special; everything seemed to fall into place for our guys,” Laszlo said. “Being at any national championship, as a player, is a truly amazing experience. It’s what we practice for year round.”
Under coach Jeff Roope, the Tigers have won eight straight NCAC championships, eight straight national tournament appearances where the team finished in third place the past two years and fifth place in 2013, before finally capturing the title this year. With all of these accomplishments, Roope was named a finalist for National Coach of the Year last season.
The reigning national champions begin the new season ranked second in the nation, according to the GCAA poll. The Tigers kicked off the season at the Transylvania Fall Invitational on September 2, a two day tournament that takes place at the University Club of Kentucky – Big Blue Course in Lexington, KY.