FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Texas captured a record-fourth USGA Men’s State Team Championship on Thursday, posting a total score of 4-under-par 428 to edge Florida by three strokes at the par-72, 6,891-yard Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort.
The trio of Zach Atkinson, Colby Harwell and Aaron Hickman entered the final round with a three-stroke cushion, and saw their advantage grow to as many as seven strokes early in the round, but a late charge by Florida briefly knotted things at the top of the leader board before Texas pulled away at the end. Texas posted a final-round score of 1-over 145, its highest of the championship, but a 1-under 71 from Atkinson provided enough cushion to claim the James R. Hand Trophy for the first time since 2007.
Iowa, the runner-up in 2012, finished third with a score of 2-over 434.
The Men’s State Team Championship consists of 54 holes of stroke play, with the two lowest of three individual scores counting as the team total for the round. The team with the lowest aggregate score following the final round is the champion.
The championship is conducted biennially by the United States Golf Association. The men’s and women’s competitions are held in alternating years. Each state is responsible for selecting its team and the players must reside in that state to be eligible. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are represented in the 2014 field.
The win for Texas was a true team effort, as each player had two of his three scores count during the championship. Harwell’s 75 was the non-counting score in the final round, but that didn’t diminish the moment.
“That just tells you right there how strong Texas is. The three of us fought pretty hard for two years to get to this point. I’m really proud of all three of us for doing what we did and fighting it out all week,” said Harwell, whose only experience competing in a USGA championship prior to the Men’s State Team was in the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “To have my hands on a USGA trophy, I mean, this is just unbelievable. I can’t believe that I’ve got my hands on one at all. I’m excited.”
Atkinson made back-to-back birdies on the first two holes, contributing to Texas’ big early lead, but soon faltered, playing Nos. 4 through 7 in 4 over par, a stretch that culminated with a double bogey on the par-5 seventh to all but negate his fast start. He didn’t make another bogey the rest of the way, however, playing the last 10 holes in 3 under.
“I probably just beared down a little more. Last nine of a big tournament, USGA event, so, the stakes are high,” said Atkinson. “I just tried to bear down and hit my targets and I did. I made a good 10‑footer on 10, a little 10‑footer that got me going. I didn’t really miss a shot after that.”
Atkinson’s fifth and final birdie of the round came on the 18th hole when he made a short putt to seal the victory.
“I thought that was to tie if Gene [Elliott] from Iowa didn’t make birdie,” Atkinson said. “So, I had no idea that it was for a couple-shot victory. I might have cozied it down just a touch more. I don’t know.”
Hickman added a 2-over 74, the second counting score for Texas. Hickman, playing in his third consecutive Men’s State Team, could not have been more thrilled to help rekindle his team’s traditionally strong play in the championship. Already the only state to have won more than twice, Texas had not finished higher than tied for 10th since its last victory in 2007, and Hickman was eager to change that.
“Every time you make it, it’s special. It’s hard to qualify for a team like this. In Texas, we have a ton of great players. To make the team and to be a part of a team that wins is amazing,” Hickman said. “Being on the team three times, they start asking a lot of questions, when are you going to win one? When we get back, I can tell them I won one now. It’s a pretty special day.”
Florida, which entered the day in fifth place and six strokes back of Texas, made an early charge up the leader board, thanks in large part to Jon Veneziano. Playing in his fourth Men’s State Team, Veneziano, 43, provided veteran leadership on a team that included 17-year-olds Sam Horsfield and Gabriel Lench. Veneziano provided clutch shots that kept Florida in the mix.
Veneziano, who defeated David Duval in the Round of 16 of the 1988 U.S. Junior Amateur, made an early double bogey before he righted the ship. He followed up a birdie on the par-4 sixth hole by holing out a 68-yard approach shot for eagle on the par-5 seventh and added another birdie on No. 9, giving him a 3-under 33 on the outward nine. He would go on to post a 2-under 70, combining with Lench’s even-par 72 for a team score of 2-under 142, sealing Florida’s third runner-up finish in the championship.
“We knew the wind was going to be an issue, so we just said let’s go out there and do our best and try not to make big numbers, and hopefully one of us can play really well,” Veneziano said. “We knew we had to get two scores under par if we were going to come and get the leaders, but this course is just so hard. It was fun, it was a great week.”
Iowa was led by 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Mike McCoy, who bounced back from a second-round 77 with an even-par 72. The Hawkeye State has now finished in the top three in two consecutive Men’s State Teams, while still searching for its first victory.
“Every shot is success or failure here. You just miss a shot and you’re penalized significantly. It’s really severe, you pay a price,” said McCoy, who carded four birdies, but also had a double bogey on the par-4 fifth. “I knew we were close, we had to overcome some [bad] shots, we just didn’t get it going. We were ready, we had our game faces on.”
Louisiana and Puerto Rico tied for fifth with scores of 5-over 437. Louisiana was led by Brandon Aydlett, who earned the championship’s individual medalist honors with a 54-hole total of 3-under 216.
Brad Valois, of Rhode Island, posted the low 18-hole score of the championship on Thursday. Valois made five consecutive birdies at one point during his round en route to a 5-under 67. The strong performance propelled his team to a tie for eighth.
FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Results from Thursday’s final round of the 2014 USGA Men’s State Team Championship being conducted at the 6,891-yard, par-72 Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. (The two best scores out of three counts toward the team’s total for each round):
1. Texas 144-139-145–428 (Colby Harwell, Robinson 73-69-75–217; Zach Atkinson, Colleyville 81-70-71–222; Aaron Hickman, Tyler 71-80-74–225)
2. Florida 143-146-142–431 (Gabriel Lench, Lake Mary 73-75-72–220; Sam Horsfield, Davenport 70-72-79–221; Jon Veneziano, Mount Dora 80-74-70–224)
3. Iowa 141-145-148–434 (Gene Elliott, West Des Moines 71-69-76–216; Michael McCoy, West Des Moines 70-77-72–219; J.D. Anderson, Johnston 77-76-83–236)
4. Missouri 144-144-147–435 (Richard Berkmeyer, Wildwood 71-71-75–217; Brad Nurski, St. Joseph 73-75-74–222; Phil Caravia, St Louis 79-73-73–225)
T5. Louisiana 143-149-145–437 (Brandon Aydlett, Metairie 68-74-71–213; Patrick Christovich, New Orleans 79-75-74–228; John Talley, St. Martinville 75-75-82–232)
T5. Puerto Rico 152-144-141–437 (Jeronimo Esteve, Guaynabo 78-72-69–219; Erick J. Morales, Sabana Seca 77-72-72–221; Edward Figueroa, San Juan 75-78-75–228)
7. Illinois 145-141-152–438 (Kyle Nathan, Glenview 71-70-77–218; Todd Mitchell, Bloomington 74-71-75–220; Blake Johnson, Winnetka 79-73-78–230)
T8. Connecticut 145-145-150–440 (David Pastore, Greenwich 70-72-72–214; Peter Ballo, Stamford 75-73-80–228; Kevin Josephson, New Britain 76-78-78–232)
T8. Georgia 150-149-141–440 (Jeff Knox, Augusta 76-73-71–220; Cameron Hooper, Atlanta 75-76-70–221; David Noll Jr., Dalton 75-77-77–229)
T8. Ohio 151-142-147–440 (Jeffrey Scohy, Bellbrook 73-75-75–223; Will Grimmer, Cincinnati 79-71-73–223; Bill Williamson, Cincinatti 78-71-74–223)
T8. Rhode Island 148-148-144–440 (Brad Valois, Warwick 75-77-67–219; Bobby Leopold, Coventry 73-71-77–221; Charlie Blanchard, North Providence 79-79-78–236)
T12. North Carolina 151-142-149–442 (Bo Andrews, Raleigh 75-70-78–223; Scott Harvey, Greensboro 77-72-74–223; Matthew Crenshaw, Burlington 76-77-75–228)
T12. Tennessee 144-148-150–442 (Todd Burgan, Powell 72-71-74–217; Craig Smith, Nashville 72-77-77–226; Matt Cooper, Memphis 79-80-76–235)
T12. Virginia 143-154-145–442 (Scott Shingler, Haymarket 75-76-74–225; Justin Young, Roanoke 68-80-79–227; Keith Decker, Martinsville 79-78-71–228)
15. California 145-145-153–443 (Jason Anthony, Fairfield 70-71-76–217; Tim Hogarth, Northridge 75-74-82–231; Dan Sullivan, Pasadena 78-79-77–234)
16. Pennsylvania 148-148-148–444 (Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh 72-77-72–221; Arnie Cutrell, Greensburg 77-71-76–224; Sean Knapp, Oakmont 76-78-77–231)
T17. New Jersey 151-149-145–445 (Steven Zychowski, Mendham 77-70-72–219; Michael Stamberger, Brielle 79-79-73–231; Trevor Randolph, Franklin Lakes 74-82-79–235)
T17. New York 148-143-154–445 (Sam Bernstein, Bronx 74-72-73–219; Tim Spitz, Pittsford 77-71-81–229; Jim Scorse, Churchville 74-74-84–232)
T17. Oregon 151-143-151–445 (Justin Kadin, Corvallis 77-71-75–223; Hans Reimers, Albany 75-72-78–225; Jesse Heinly, Bend 76-78-76–230)
T17. South Carolina 149-144-152–445 (Todd White, Spartanburg 72-70-79–221; Lee Palms, Greenville 78-74-75–227; Rick Cloninger, Fort Mill 77-77-77–231)
21. Vermont 154-139-153–446 (Bryan Smith, Jay 77-68-76–221; Garren Poirier, Killington 77-71-77–225; Eric Lajeunesse, Barre 85-80-85–250)
T22. Colorado 147-152-150–449 (Jon Lindstrom, Broomfield 73-75-74–222; Steve Irwin, Arvada 74-77-76–227; Nick Nosewicz, Aurora 79-78-79–236)
T22. Indiana 149-148-152–449 (Sean Rowen, Greenwood 75-74-75–224; Brett Widner, Avon 77-80-77–234; Kenny Cook, Noblesville 74-74-NC–NC)
T22. Minnesota 151-144-154–449 (Trent Peterson, Eagan 80-71-73–224; Troy Johnson, Maple Grove 77-73-82–232; Jesse Bull, Hopkins 74-80-81–235)
T22. Mississippi 147-149-153–449 (Alan Ellis, Greenwood 77-73-76–226; Eddie Brescher III, Hattiesburg 70-76-86–232; Brandon Laird, Biloxi 78-84-77–239)
T26. Massachusetts 152-148-150–450 (Doug Clapp, Walpole 75-75-73–223; Matt Parziale, Brockton 77-76-77–230; Herbie Aikens, Kingston 81-73-78–232)
T26. Nevada 149-149-152–450 (Josh Baskins, Reno 73-75-76–224; Kenny Ebalo, Las Vegas 76-74-76–226; Jeremy May, North Las Vegas 77-88-82–247)
T26. New Mexico 149-154-147–450 (Ben Albin, Santa Fe 76-75-71–222; Nick Geyer, Albuquerque 73-79-76–228; Justin Knauber, Albuquerque 79-85-81–245)
29. Arizona 151-151-149–451 (Ken Tanigawa, Paradise Valley 77-74-74–225; R.J. Wood, Scottsdale 74-79-75–228; Trey Martin, Phoenix 77-77-76–230)
T30. Maine 150-150-154–454 (Andrew Slattery, Minot 74-75-78–227; Ricky Jones, Thomaston 76-75-80–231; Matt Greenleaf, Portland 88-85-76–249)
T30. North Dakota 156-154-144–454 (Rick Kuhn, Mandan 77-77-71–225; Greg Melhus, Fargo 79-77-73–229; Duane Wages III, Grand Forks 81-86-78–245)
T30. West Virginia 145-158-151–454 (Sam O’Dell, Hurricane 69-84-75–228; Trent Roush, Mason 76-80-76–232; Philip Reale II, South Charleston 78-78-78–234)
T33. Delaware 146-153-156–455 (Jay Whitby, Wyoming 74-76-68–218; Chris Anderson, Wilmington 72-77-88–237; Ed Brown, Lewes 83-80-88–251)
T33. Washington 148-153-154–455 (Tom Brandes, Bellevue 71-76-76–223; Erik Hanson, Kirkland 78-77-78–233; Mike Haack, Bellevue 77-77-79–233)
T33. Wisconsin 156-150-149–455 (Josh Udelhofen, Platteville 76-72-73–221; Matt Behm, Janesville 82-78-76–236; Tom Halla, Colgate 80-82-77–239)
T36. Michigan 154-151-151–456 (Tom Werkmeister, Kentwood 74-71-72–217; Andrew Chapman, Traverse City 82-81-79–242; Nathan Clark, Charlotte 80-80-82–242)
T36. Montana 158-149-149–456 (Brian Beach, Missoula 77-70-78–225; Jimbob Coleman, Billings 81-79-71–231; Ross Bartell, Great Falls 82-88-82–252)
T38. Alabama 149-149-160–458 (Matt Gourgeot, Decatur 72-76-79–227; Matt Johnson, Dothan 77-74-81–232; Steve Hudson, Birmingham 80-75-82–237)
T38. Kansas 154-150-154–458 (Bryan Norton, Overland Park 78-71-79–228; Zac Burton, Manhattan 78-82-75–235; Doug Albers, Leawood 76-79-82–237)
40. Hawaii 155-150-154–459 (Andrew Chin, Honolulu 76-74-76–226; Tyler Ota, Aiea 80-76-78–234; Brent Grant, Honolulu 79-78-78–235)
41. Maryland 155-151-155–461 (Joseph Rice IV, Dunkirk 76-75-77–228; Mark Cusic, California 79-76-78–233; Patrick McCormick, Baltimore 79-76-81–236)
42. Oklahoma 157-153-152–462 (Heath Myers, Kingfisher 75-77-78–230; Jon Valuck, Edmond 85-76-74–235; Kirk Wright, Oklahoma City 82-80-85–247)
43. Utah 158-154-152–464 (Darrin Overson, Provo 78-83-73–234; Jon Wright, Salt Lake City 80-76-79–235; Dan Horner, Sandy 82-78-79–239)
44. Nebraska 152-156-157–465 (John Sajevic, Fremont 74-78-80–232; Ryan Nietfeldt, Elkhorn 78-78-77–233; Andrew Sajevic, Fremont 78-80-85–243)
T45. Arkansas 159-153-154–466 (Drew Greenwood, Hot Springs 78-73-78–229; Wes McNulty, White Hall 81-81-76–238; Trey Schaap, North Little Rock 87-80-80–247)
T45. District of Columbia 155-155-156–466 (Endel Liias, Washington 75-77-78–230; Kevin McDonnell, Washington 82-82-78–242; Mark Vedete, Washington 80-78-84–242)
47. Idaho 152-155-161–468 (Graysen Huff, Eagle 75-74-83–232; Darren Kuhn, Pocatello 77-84-78–239; Josh Nunamaker, Idaho Falls 84-81-83–248)
T48. Kentucky 154-159-156–469 (Denver Haddix, Lexington 75-83-77–235; Tom Campbell, Danville 79-80-79–238; Kyle Leach, Louisville 81-79-82–242)
T48. New Hampshire 156-157-156–469 (Michael Martel, New Ipswich 80-80-77–237; Ryan Kohler, Chesterfield 81-77-79–237; Craig Steckowych, Greenland 76-81-NC–NC)
50. Wyoming 157-162-151–470 (Todd Griffin, Rock Springs 80-79-77–236; John Hornbeck, Saratoga 77-86-74–237; Mark Isakson, Sheridan 81-83-81–245)
51. South Dakota 158-166-158–482 (Matthew Johnson, Sioux Falls 77-86-79–242; Jeff Meyerink, Mitchell 83-83-79–245; Scott Nowak, Harrisburg 81-83-92–256)
52. Alaska 163-160-166–489 (Greg Sanders, Anchorage 78-75-81–234; Kevin Daniels, Anchorage 87-85-85–257; David Hamilton, Anchorage 85-85-89–259)