Provided by Wayland Baptist University
AMARILLO – When it comes to Sooner Athletic Conference men's golf, Oklahoma City has long reigned supreme. Now, there's a new sheriff in town.
Wayland captured its first-ever SAC golf championship, holding off two-time defending NAIA national champion Oklahoma City University here Tuesday by 13 strokes.
"It feels great," Wayland coach Tom Harp said with an ear-to-ear smile.
It took a tremendous performance for the top-ranked Pioneers to wrestle the SAC crown away from No. 2 Oklahoma City, which had won the last five titles and 17 of the last 18. After rounds of 283 and 280 on Monday at Tascosa Golf Club's La Paloma Course, Wayland came in with a 5-under 279 on Tuesday for a 10-under total of 842. The Stars followed Monday rounds of 295 and 277 with a 283 for their 855 total.
As the top two teams in the country playing in the same conference, Harp said the Pioneers and Stars have a friendly rivalry.
"We've played with each other a lot, and I like their players. They're a good group of guys," Harp said.
That might be why beating them tastes so sweet.
Wayland held a relatively comfortable nine-shot lead after Monday's round, which gave Harp a lot of hope.
"I felt like if we shot 5-under that we would be tough to beat," Harp said. "As long as we did what we were supposed to do…"
But the Pioneers knew the Stars wouldn't go down without a fight, and they were right.
"(OCU's) first three guys were 9-under after the first few holes, so I thought it was going to be close," Harp said. "But our guys stayed tough. They guys just needed to stay consistent, and they did."
The most consistent of them all was sophomore Ian Ansett, who after a pair of 2-under 69s on Monday came back with a 70 on Tuesday for a 208 total.
"Ian just continues to get better," Harp said.
Ansett finished as the tournament runner-up, three strokes behind James Marchesani of OCU, a senior from Rosebud, Victoria, Australia, who earned SAC Tournament Medalist and Player of the Year honors after shooting 4-under 67s on both sides of a 71 for his 8-under 205 total.
Joining Marchesani and Ansett on the All-SAC Tournament Team were one more OCU player – James' brother Anthony Marchesani (72-68-69—209) – and two others from Wayland – Anders Ellingsberg (73-70-69—212) and Ryan Connolly (72-70-71—213).
Named Freshman of the Year was Wayland's Steven Diack (69-75-72—216), who tied for ninth place in the 46-player field. Leighton Bearchell (78-71-69—218), one of four Pioneers to post a 69 during the tournament, finished 12th.
Finishing in third place in the nine-team field was No. 5 Texas Wesleyan (302-285-285) at 872, followed by No. 23 Northwood (297-289-288) at 874, No. 6 Oklahoma Baptist (294-292-291) at 877, Southwestern Christian (312-310-296) at 918, John Brown (317-311-313) at 941, Mid-America Christian (330-320-314) 964 and St. Gregory's (421-406-419) at 1,246.
Wayland's win – its sixth tournament victory of the season – automatically qualifies the Pioneers for the NAIA National Championships, to be held early next month in Daytona Beach, Fla. Oklahoma City, Texas Wesleyan, Oklahoma Baptist and Northwood will be looking for at-large invitations to nationals.
"We'll be excited and enjoy this the rest of the day," said Harp, knowing that the team's focus already is on nationals. "It's going to be a blast.
"What an awesome year, but have one more win to go get," added the SAC Coach of the Year. "I think if we do that we'll all be thrilled."
SAC Tournament Awards
Medalist: James Marchesani, OCU
Player of Year: James Marchesani, OCU
All-Tournament: James Marchesani, OCU; Ian Ansett, WBU; Anthony Marchesani, OCU; Anders Ellingsberg, WBU; Ryan Connolly, WBU
Freshman of the Year: Steven Diack, WBU
Coach of Year: Tom Harp, WBU