The College of Coastal Georgia men’s golf team is once again the national champion.
Taking a 16-stroke lead to the course Friday in the final round of the 2015 NAIA Men’s Golf National Championship, all that was left for the top-ranked Mariners was to seal the deal, and they did, closing with a 3-over-par 291 score over the final 18 holes on the Hills Course at LPGA International which was good for a convincing 11-shot victory over third-ranked William Woods (Mo.) which finished as the runner-up.
The final-round score gave the Mariners a 7-under 1,145 total for the four-day, 72-hole event in which they led from start to finish on their way to a second straight national championship.
“It’s amazing,” said Coastal Georgia coach Mike Cook. “I never would have thought this when we started the program five years ago. The goal from the beginning was to recruit the best players possible and try to win a national championship. Now, we’ve won two in a row. That’s just special.”
The Mariners are now 2-for-2 at the national tournament. Last year, they won the school’s first-ever national crown in any sport with a come-from-behind victory in the final round, erasing a six-shot deficit to win by four strokes over defending national champion and perennial power Oklahoma City.
The Stars were the last team to repeat as national champions as they won the title in 2012 and 2013 before the Mariners claimed the national crown last season in their first appearance at the national tournament.
Last year’s championship was also played at LPGA International, but was contested on the Jones Course at the same facility.
With this week’s wire-to-wire victory at the national tournament, the Mariners won for the eighth time this season in 10 tournaments. The eight wins is a school-record, surpassing the five the Mariners posted last season while claiming the national championship.
The only two times they didn’t win, the Mariners were second at the Dave Adamonis Sr. Invitational hosted by Johnson & Wales in late October and third at the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament in April.
At the league tournament, the Mariners finished just four shots behind conference champion Dalton State and were two back of runner-up Mobile.
“Eight out of 10, that’s just good golf,” said senior Alastair Tidcombe when asked to put the entire season in perspective. “We’ve joked about being a dynasty, but we just push each other every tournament. As a team, we wanted to have the best round of the day in every tournament we played. When that is your goal every round, you have a chance to come out pretty good in the end.”
In this week’s national championship, the Mariners placed three players in the top 15 in the individual standings which landed all three players on the All-Tournament Team. Tidcombe and fellow senior Hunter Cornelius tied for fourth overall at 5-under 283 for the championship.
Also, senior Alan Bradford finished tied for 13th at 2-over 290 for the tournament. Bradford also made the tournament team last spring when he led the Mariners to their first national crown by finishing fourth in the individual standings.
Also for the Mariners, Coastal Georgia junior Trevor Smith tied for 46th at 8-over 296 and senior Alan Barnhardt tied for 58th at 11-over 299.
At the post-tournament awards ceremony, Cook was named the NAIA Coach of the Year while Tidcombe, Bradford and Cornelius were also named NAIA Ping First-Team All-Americans by the Golf Coaches Association of America.
Cornelius and Bradfordwere all in the lineup last season when the Mariners won the national championship along with Smith.
“The feeling is similar,” said Cornelius, who shot a team-best 68 in the final round, when asked to describe his emotions after winning again. “It’s just a little sweeter this year. Now, I know what (seniors) Dylan (Freeman) and Chase (Miller) felt like last year going out on top. This is just an awesome team.”
And, the Mariners are once again a national championship-winning team.