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SNOW HILL — The Barton College men’s golf team approached Tuesday’s final round of the 2019 NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas tournament with the rallying cry: “We’ve got a chance to do something special.”
The runner-up Bulldogs envisioned erasing a 12-stroke deficit and overcoming North Greenville (South Carolina) University for the championship.
Over the demanding par 36-36—72, 7,280-yard Cutter Creek Golf Club layout in conditions described by sophomore Bryson Boyette as “scoreable,” Barton responded with a sensational effort. However, sensational didn’t get it done.
North Greenville countered the Bulldogs’ torrid 6-under-par 282 — their lowest 2019 round — with an even-par effort of 288 for its low four individuals and defended its championship by a six-stroke margin against Barton. The Crusaders fired a 2-over-par 866 for 54 holes, while Barton fashioned an 872.
The Bulldogs, runners-up for the third straight year, trailed King (Tennessee) University by five shots after Sunday’s first round. North Greenville bolted out front in Monday’s second round and opened up a 12-shot margin against Barton.
AS GOOD AS WE CAN PLAY
“We played as good as we can play,” said Barton head coach Ashley Leonard. “We threw everything we had at them.”
Added senior Scott Pechacek: “North Greenville just outplayed us for three days. I was a little bit surprised we didn’t make more of a run, but we did everything we could have done — plain and simple.”
Noted sophomore teammate Austin Schone: “There was a lot of great golf played out there. We did what we could; we left it all out there.”
Comeback hopeful Boyette admitted: “(North Greenville) played really stellar golf all week. We did what we needed to do when we needed to do it.”
So did the Crusaders.
“We tried; we tried to battle our way through,” commented North Greenville sophomore Austin Duncan, who birdied the final hole to seize the individual championship by a stroke against senior teammate Seth Robertson.
“We knew they were playing well. We had to focus on our game, take each shot one at a time, block out what the other teams were doing and focus on making putts.”
With a 282 the final round, Limestone (South Carolina) College surged to a third-place finish at 878. With the low final round of 7-under 281, the University of Mount Olive charged to a fourth-place finish (888). Erskine (South Carolina) College rounded out the top five at 891.
King, the first-round leader, faded to sixth at 894. Then came Southern Wesleyan (South Carolina) at 903, Belmont Abbey (905) and Emmanuel (Georgia) College (945).
Duncan claimed individual supremacy at 6-under 210, followed by Robertson at 211. With Tuesday’s low round of 67, Limestone’s Robin Stadheim vaulted to third at 213.
Barton’s Schone, at 215, deadlocked Erskine’s Jonathan Costello for fourth. Boyette joined Limestone’s Brett Krekorian and King’s Robert Wilkinson in a tie for sixth place at 217. North Greenville’s Evans Lewis, a freshman, claimed ninth at 219 while Barton seniors Pechacek and Justin Plane tied for 10th at 220.
The Bulldogs placed Schone, Boyette, Pechacek and Plane on the all-tournament team.
“I’m kind of relieved,” Duncan remarked of avoiding a playoff for the individual title. “But if I had to be in a playoff, I wanted it to be against Seth.”
“It’s fine,” Robertson muttered after watching Duncan sink the birdie putt.
Later while listening to Duncan being interviewed about a possible playoff, Robertson glanced at Duncan and jokingly said: “I was coming after you.”
Barton did that against North Greenville from the start as, on the front nine, Peachacek and Boyette each stood 2-under and Schone 1-under. The Bulldogs sizzled to a scorching 9-under after 12 holes but lost three shots the final six layouts.
Schone and Boyette each fired 69s, while Schone and Plane each carded 72s. Junior Justin Poole produced his best tournament round of 74.
But the Crusaders counted 71s from Duncan and Lewis, a 72 from Robertson and a 74 from senior Isaiah Ledford.
Duncan didn’t mention a North Greenville target score for the last 18 holes, explaining: “We wanted to minimize mistakes off the tee, be consistent on the greens and be aggressive when we could.
“I think this one is more satisfying than last year, but it’s bittersweet because we lose two more seniors. We are glad to close out the year like this and get to go to the (Southeast Regional) again.”
Schone paced Barton after an up-and-down regular season, admitting he struggled in tournaments. He registered five birdies Tuesday and 12 for the three rounds.
“I fixed my mental game,” the grinning Schone said of his late-season improvement. “The last three days are pretty much the topping on the cake. I played pretty good, but I left a lot out there. But I played three rounds pretty consistently.”
Pechacek emerged arguably the most excited Bulldog after his 3-under final round that included four birdies.
“Outstanding!,” he exclaimed. “This is my best college round ever. I have never shot in the 60s in a college tournament and that is something I really wanted to do.
“We did all we could do. We did a really good job of controlling what we could control.”
Tuesday’s 69 for Boyette was a form of redemption after Monday’s 77 took him out of individual contention.
“I needed it,” he assured. “Yesterday left a bad taste. Playing a bogey-free (three birdies) final round was kind of special.”
“I could sense (a comeback). I felt like we were getting close. I was putting as much pressure on my guy (Robertson) as I could.”
Barton finished an upbeat runner-up — in some respects.
“We are proud to be in second, but not content,” Boyette expressed. “We knew we were good enough to win. We got outplayed.”