LEMONT, Ill. (May 6) – A stirring final-day rally propelled Central Oklahoma to a stunning victory in the NCAA Division II Central/Midwest Regional here Wednesday.
The Bronchos were 12 shots out of the lead in third place entering the last round, but UCO closed with a 292 at the 6,936-yard, par-72 Cog Hill Dubsdread Course behind under-par rounds from individual champion Eric Kline and Russ Purser in storming to the title.
The top five teams qualified for the National Championship May 18-22 in Conover, N.C., at the Rockbarn Resort. Coach Pat Bates’ UCO crew finished the three-day, 54-hole tournament with an 885 total, 10 shots ahead of second-round leader Central Missouri. Missouri-St. Louis was third in the 20-team event at 896, followed by Southwestern Oklahoma (898). Indianapolis and Minnesota State Mankato tied for fifth and went into a sudden death playoff. Indianapolis took the automatic bid after winning the tiebreaker.
Southern Nazarene’s Michael Hearne grabbed one of the three individual spots available, winning a sudden-death playoff for the final spot. Southeastern Oklahoma State was in second place through two rounds but fell to seventh in the final round.
Purser made six birdies in a 2-under-par 70 to lead the way for UCO, while Kline overcame a slow start for a 71. Eli Armstrong came through with a clutch 72, Wesley Jackson added a 79 and Logan Gray an 84 as UCO captured its sixth tournament crown of the year.
"We got off to a good start and that really got us going," Bates said. "The guys played really well and it was excited to come back and win the tournament the way we did."
Kline ended up claiming medalist honors with a 2-under 214 total, edging Garrison Myles of Malone by one stroke.
The junior standout got off to a rough start with bogeys on three of the first four holes, but an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole jump-started his round. Kline went on to make the turn at 1-over 37 and then made four back-nine birdies in coming back with a 34 for the 71 that gave him the individual title.
Purser ignited UCO’s comeback with a sizzling 32 on the front nine, making five birdies during an eight-hole stretch. He gave two shots back on the closing nine, but his 70 was still the low round of the day and led to a seventh-place finish with a 219 total.
Meanwhile, Southwestern Oklahoma State is headed back to the NCAA Division II Championship for the second time in three years under head coach Brad Fleetwood.
The Bulldogs were able to climb one spot up from fifth with a final round 300.
Battling back after a tough second round performance, Stefan Idstam delivered a key 71 and a top-10 finish (ninth at 5-over 221). Marques Gomez shot 75 to finish tied for 17th. Also contributing to the Bulldogs’ cause were Manuel Arzuaga, Jake Duvall and Seth Overstreet. Arzuaga turned in a 77 (+5) on Wednesday to finish in a tie for 31st with an overall score of 227 (+11). Duvall shared 31st with Arzuaga, also shooting a 77 (+5) in the finale for a 227 (+11) overall. Overstreet posted an 80 (+8) over the last 18 holes for a 54-hole total of 238 (+22) and tied for 83rd.
"I’m incredibly proud and excited for our men," said Fleetwood after the Bulldogs clinched their spot in the National Championship. "They played with a lot of courage and confidence to outlast some quality opponents today. This is what we’ve worked for all year, and we are incredibly honored to represent SWOSU and the GAC at the National Championship."
Despite entering the final round in second-place, a rocky third round would spell doom for Southeastern Oklahoma’s hopes of advancing. The Savage Storm shot 315 on the final day to finish seventh, just one shot out of the playoff for fifth.
The news was better for Hearne, who birdied the first extra hole to edge Bellarmine’s DJ Vogt and secure the third and final individual bid. Hearne finished in a tie for third place at 217 after shooting his second straight 72.
"When I came off my last hole Coach told me I was going to be in a playoff," said the native of Wales. "I’ve played match play my entire life growing up so I was comfortable with the format. I chose to hit first off the tee and hit a good shot. You try to not look nervous, but you’re always nervous in that situation. He hit a great shot to get within 11 feet of the hole, but I was able to get within four feet and then sank the putt and he missed his."
The Crimson Storm as a team missed out on reaching the National Championship, finishing four strokes behind Indianapolis and Minnesota State Mankato. SNU closed the super regional with a 909 in ninth place.
"I am very proud of the team and Mike’s play," said SNU coach Derrick Taylor. "I am a bit disappointed because we were only four shots back and we had a few bad rounds from a few guys. You look back and wonder how many shots we could have got back. We started out pretty good today, but hit a mid-round struggle. It’s a bit hard to take to be so close, but it’s so good for the program moving forward. It’s a good start for our future and us building on what has been built over the years."
Luke Coppedge and Cristian Valderrama each shot a 75 on the final day while Dylan Igo fired a 78 and Dalton Rhoden shot an 86. Igo closed the tournament with a 230 in a tie for 47th while Luke Coppedge was just a stroke back at 231 in a tie for 51st. Valderrama tied for 73rd at 236 and Rhoden tied for 97th at 242.