Root for the Home Team
As the final day of the 2014 National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship got underway Saturday morning, you could sense the tension and the pressure that only a Collegiate Title could encourage. The players were tentative, going about their morning routine amongst a gamut of destroyed tents and banners and flooded greens from the incessant rain and wind the night prior. Only after the sun had set the night before had the Men’s Individual Title been decided, with Bryan Murphy of Ferris State winning in a dramatic and wet finish. Saturday would see the Women’s Division crown a queen and all divisions were set to square off in the semi and Finals rounds of the Team competition. A busy day of golf indeed. No time to worry about the building winds and pending showers…again.
The morning rounds set the stage for the Team Finals. In the Second Flight, only two teams would make the cut into the finals, and after five rounds there were two clear cut favorites. Liberty University and Texas State would rise above the rest and advance to the Final 13 holes. An intense back-and-forth ensued, and after the dust had settled, Liberty held on to a two throw lead for the Title and the first invitation back to next year’s shindig.
In the First Flight division, four teams would make the finals, and it was an extremely tight race. Kansas, East Tennessee State, and Ferris State were all toying with the lead, while South Florida, Colorado State and Arkansas State were battling for the final spot in the Finals. South Florida managed to creep in, only to fade off and make it an exciting, three horse race. After a rough morning round, Ferris State made a fight for the win, shooting a blazing hot 38, or -2 in the howling winds that were the backdrop of the final stage. In the end, however, it wasn’t enough as the Jayhawks and the Pirates tied at a one over par 41, leaving Kansas atop the rest. And there goes the second offer to return next year…
The Women’s Team Championship was pretty much decided after the first day, as Humboldt State continued to build their lead after each round. Ahead an astounding 104 throws going in to the final day, they cruised across the finish line for the victory ahead of Oregon and defending champs Mississippi State University, earning their spot in next year's event.
When the morning round was complete, the top nine finishers in the women’s group were excited to finish the rest of the Individual competition. Forfeiting a lunch break for more golf, the ladies grabbed a snack and headed right back out on to the challenging Old Glory course for the final 13 holes. Allison Carlton of North Texas went into the Finals with a commanding lead, but a lot of ladies made it a fight to the finish. Krystin Nowicki of Mississippi State and Ruth Hudson of Western Carolina were hot on her heels headed into the last few holes. Hole 17 proved pivotal, as Allison’s drive landed on the island green safe, and she laid up for a simple three as many of her opponents were not able to do the same and recorded much higher numbers. Being able to avoid the tricky OB areas at the Hippo is extremely important, and Allison was able to do just that for most of the week. She cruised through the last three holes and laid up her birdie putt on the last hole to tap in for a par and clinch the Championship.
After such a dramatic finish in the Individuals the night before, the men were nothing short of eager to begin the semifinal round. Ferris State (who brought two teams to compete in both the Championship and the First Flights) began the day with the lead, but the local boys of Georgia Regents-Augusta were only a few strokes behind and were not to be denied a chance for the title on their home soil. As the Bulldogs of Ferris began to falter, the Jaguars raced ahead and took the lead.
After birdies on several of the first five holes, GRU found themselves in the lead for the first time since the completion of the first round earlier that week. Big putts started to drop, and drives were consistently landing inside the ropes as the Jags continued to build on their lead. As they approached the last teepad, leading by 6, all four team members put their heads together into a huddle, arms around each other, encouraging each other to maintain focus for just one more hole. After Clint Kuglar laid up the birdie attempt to 6 feet, Jason Lynn calmly stepped up and tapped it in to the sheer elation from his teammates and the gallery spattered with supportive Georgian and South Carolinian disc enthusiasts. After a short celebration, a familiar chant rose from the gallery, instigating a traditional dive into the pond behind the 20th green. With the excitement of the win, and the relief of adrenaline after a hard fought battle, they didn’t even seem to mind the cold.
At the awards ceremony, Tournament Director Alan Kane thanked the generous sponsors of the event, and congratulated all the individual competitors who made the First and Second All American Teams, as well as the winners of the Second, First and Championship Flights. As the newest local heroes raised the Championship Cup, local band Funk You lit up the stage and the party began. A fitting finish to an amazing week at the NCDGC. A big thanks goes out to Disc Golf Planet TV for providing live coverage of the event all week, and congratulations to all not only the Individual and Team Champions, but all the players who came out and had a great time and made some new friends and lasting memories. For a complete listing of results, click here. See you next year!