Magic runs out for Eagles as Lee wins NCAA title

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Photo: OC players pose with honors earned this week at the NCAA Division II Championship. Left to right, coach David Lynn, Exequiel Rodriguez, Andres Brictson, Mateo Pulcini, Oskari Nikku and Alejandro Armijo.

DETROIT (May 20, 2022) – Throughout the postseason, Oklahoma Christian golfers always seemed to have the ability to put together a late rally and earn a narrow victory, but Lee (Tenn.) made sure the Eagles didn’t have that opportunity on Friday in the season’s biggest match.

No. 3-ranked Lee seized control early and kept the lead the rest of the way en route to a 4-1 win over No. 7 OC in the title match of the NCAA Division II Championship tournament at TPC Michigan. The team championship was the first for the Flames as a NCAA Division II program.

OC also was seeking its first Division II men’s golf title after winning three previous national titles in the NAIA and National Christian College Athletic Association. The Eagles’ national runner-up finish still was the best in any team sport during the university’s NCAA era and the best this season in any sport by a Lone Star Conference member school.

“Overall we had a spectacular week,” OC coach David Lynn said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how we competed and carried ourselves under immense pressure. The guys are absolutely gutted. But they have set a new standard for OC golf in the NCAA era that past and future Eagle golfers can be proud of. It has been an honor to coach this team. These guys are special in so many ways.

“It was a true team effort all week, one I will never forget and one we will talk about for a long time.”

The Eagles’ postseason journey before Friday had been one featuring narrow escapes mostly ending in success. OC qualified for match play in the LSC Championship tournament by a mere stroke. At the Division II South Central-West Super Regional, the Eagles squeezed into fourth place – and earned their trip to the national tournament – by just one stroke.

Once in the Motor City, the Eagles finished fourth in the stroke-play portion of the Division II Championship, but only three shots ahead of the ninth-place team that didn’t qualify for match play. Then OC had a handful of narrow individual wins while taking down Missouri-St. Louis and Central Missouri on Thursday to advance to the title match.

OC’s only lead on Friday came on the first hole of the first match, as senior Andres Brictson parred the par-4 No. 1 while Lee’s Dalton Chuba recorded a bogey. Chuba later built a two-shot lead in that match, although Brictson eventually won, posting a 1-over-par 73, two shots better than Chuba.

Brictson won all three of his matches for OC on Thursday and Friday, providing a strong finish to a stellar five-season career with the Eagles, during which he won five tournament titles (including the Heartland Conference Championship in 2019), earned All-America honors in 2020 and was a part of two conference team championships.

“What a fine career he has had,” Lynn said. ” His play going out and winning all three matches was incredible and I’m so proud of the way finished his career.”

The Flames quickly took control of the final three matches on the course. Lee’s No. 3 player, Dustin DeMerssemen, recorded the day’s best round by any player, a 69, and cruised past OC freshman Oskari Nikku, who had a 79.

At the No. 2 spot, Oliver Lewis-Perkins led for all but one hole against OC junior Alejandro Armijo, finishing with a 72 to Armijo’s 74. Armijo made things interesting with an eagle on the par-5 No. 17, but Lewis-Perkins answered with a birdie on that hole to maintain a two-shot lead in the match that provided the Flames with the winning team point.

Lee’s No. 1 player, first-team All-American Beck Burnette, jumped to a two-shot lead over OC freshman Exequiel Rodriguez on the opening hole, with Burnette recording a birdie and Rodriguez a bogey. Burnette led by seven shots at the turn and held off a late rally by Rodriguez, winning by one shot, 73 to 74.

At the No. 4 position, OC sophomore first-team All-American Mateo Pulcini fell behind early against Connor Pollman, but later built a three-shot lead. But bogeys on the par-4 No. 14, the par-4 No. 16 and No. 17 cost Pulcini the lead, and Pollman’s birdie on No. 17 put him ahead. Pulcini drained a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18, but Pollman matched that birdie to finish off a round of 70, while Pulcini had a 71.

If team scores were being kept during match play, OC would have improved with each match, from 296 to 294 to 292, and the latter would have been the Eagles’ best score of the week, in six rounds played. But Lee would have posted a 284 (4-under-par) in the title match, which would have been the best round of the five-day tournament by any of the 20 teams who competed.

“You just have to take your hat off to Lee,” Lynn said. “Lee played exceptionally well today.”

RESULTS

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