Saint Leo Wins First-Ever NCAA National Championship
Saint Leo University men's golf team makes university athletics history winning the 2016 NCAA Division II Title.
The Saint Leo men's golf team made history with a 3-2 score in match play to beat Chico State at the NCAA Division II Festival in Denver, Colo. and claim the university's first-ever team national championship.
A year ago, the team recorded its best NCAA Division II Men's Championship finish in program history by reaching the semifinals of medal match play. This year, the Lions set a new program best with the school's first national title.
The win occurred two days after freshman Hugo Bernard earned the NCAA Men's Golf Individual Title.
"We got off to a good start and that makes it easier on the coach and the players. It's pretty amazing. To be the first in school history is unbelievable," said head coach Chris Greenwood.
The Lions, who smashed the 54-hole team record at NCAA Championships at -26, ten strokes under Florida Southern's pace in 1999, looked to complete the impressive performance in match play. And they did not disappoint.
Saint Leo made it through the quarterfinals and semifinals with wins over Wilmington (Del.), and Sunshine State Conference foe Lynn, and looked to take on Chico State in the finals.
"It feels great to get it done – that was the goal the whole year. It feels good," said junior Joey Savoie.
Through the first nine holes, the Lions maintained a 4-1 lead, and as they progressed through the course, they maintained a lead.
The pairing of Liam Ainsworth and CSU's Justin Wiles finished first with Wiles taking the point with a one-under score. Ryan Gendron and Matt Hutchins came in next, with Gendron dominating the round taking a seven-under to even the score at 1-1.
Chico State took the lead once again as Lee Gearhar topped Savoie with a three-under round. It was down to the Lions final two golfers, the NCAA individual champion Bernard, and Griffin Clark.
Bernard turned in a seven-under round to defeat Alistair Docherty, and even the score, bringing in Clark.
Clark held the two-under lead he had at the turn, and increased it to three-under over the final eight holes to help the Lions win the National Title.
In addition to the men's golf championship, this year's NCAA Division II Spring National Championships Festival saw men's tennis finish a program-best national runners-up. Women's golf tied for fourth for a program-high first. The No. 2 ranked women's tennis team marked their second national semifinalist finish in the last three years coming in second to No. 1 BYU-Hawaii, 5-3.
Image credits: Saint Leo University Athletics