Sam Johnston of Oklahoma Christian wins record fifth tourney

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WICHITA, Kan. (Oct. 7, 2014) – Rhein Gibson has played in the British Open. Oscar Stark and Axel Ochoa finished 1-2 in the 2011 NAIA Championship. Now Oklahoma Christian’s Sam Johnston has surpassed them all in collegiate wins.

Johnston posted his fifth individual win in less than 2� years, shooting a 2-under-par 70 on Tuesday in the Newman Fall Invitational at Rolling Hills Country Club. The junior from San Diego finished the tournament at 10-under 206, two shots better than Mike Hearne of Southern Nazarene.

Johnston moved past Gibson, Stark and Ochoa – who each recorded four victories during their stellar OC careers – into sole possession of third place on the program’s all-time wins list.

With 70 percent of his junior season and all of his senior season remaining, there’s a chance Johnston – already a two-time NCAA Division II All-America pick – could make a run at the school record of 10 career wins, set by OC Athletic Hall of Famer Bruno Buccolo from 2004-2008. Juan Lizarralde, who won nine events from 2001-2005, is second on that list.

"I am very pleased with Sam’s play this week," OC coach David Lynn said. "He really controlled his ball well and managed his emotions extremely well."

Unfortunately for the Eagles, Johnston’s individual success didn’t translate into team success. OC, which sat six shots out of the lead in third place entering the final round, dropped to fourth in the nine-team field after shooting 289 (1-over). OC’s three-round score of 870 was 12 shots behind Lubbock Christian (Texas), seven behind Southern Nazarene and two behind Newman (Kan.).

"We played poorly this week," Lynn said. "We didn’t have a good ball-striking week and as a team really putted bad. We just made a lot of unforced errors, which is unusual. We have a lot to do to get ready for our last two events."

Besides Johnston, senior Jared Consoli was the Eagles’ only other player to shoot under par on Tuesday, posting a 71 on the 6,199-yard layout. Consoli tied for 16th overall in the 49-man field at 221. That was two shots behind OC freshman Zac Schaefer, whose final-round 75 left him at 219, tied for 12th.

Senior Trey Payne shot his best round of the tournament, a 74, to finish tied for 31st at 229, while freshman Asher Owen’s second consecutive 74 put him at 230, in 34th place.

The Eagles also had two players compete as individuals. Freshman Chase Esparza fired a 73 on Tuesday to close at 224, tied for 23rd. That was one stroke behind junior Kevin Workman, who also shot a final-round 73 and finished at 223, tied for 20th.

OC will play in the NCAA Division I-heavy Bill Ross Intercollegiate at Milburn Country Club in Overland Park, Kan., next Monday and Tuesday, before heading to Panama City Beach, Fla., for the National Christian College Athletic Association Championship, set for Oct. 27-29 at The Hombre Golf Club.

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Ken MacLeod

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