The season didn’t end according to plan for the USC Aiken golf team.
Despite being ranked second nationally in the most recent coaches poll, the Pacers ended their season on Wednesday with a 12th-place finish and a three-round team score of 905 in the NCAA Division II National Championship at The Meadows in Allendale, Michigan. That left USCA 10 strokes out of eighth place and a spot in the match-play portion of the event, which will begin today.
Head coach Mike Carlisle said his team came in to the day knowing it had to play better to make the match-play. While the Pacers trimmed 10 strokes from their second-round score and turned in a final-round 292, that didn’t get them into position.
“It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess,” Carlisle said.
For the second year in a row, Florida Southern’s Tim Crouch took home the individual title, this time with an even-par score of 213. He won with a score of 2-under last year at Hershey Country Club in Pennsylvania, knocking off USCA’s Matt Atkins and Western Washington’s Jake Webb in a playoff.
Senior Kyle Godsman, a Division II PING All-Region selection, was the Pacers’ top individual finisher with a three-round total of 225 that was good enough for a 38th-place tie. He was able to save his best round for last, though, carding a 1-over 72 that including two bogeys and a birdie on Wednesday.
Fellow senior Hayden Letien also saved the best for last, finishing with a 74 to post a three-round score of 226 that was one stroke better than his score from a year ago.
“They’re still not very satisfied with our play here,” Carlisle said of the seniors, noting the team’s goal of competing for the national title.
Juniors Brandon Robinson-Thompson and Andrew Ward tied for 58th place at 228, and senior Gaines Milliner – an Aiken High grad – rounded out the group with a three-round score of 234. Robinson-Thompson was also an all-region honoree.
In all, six of the 12 golfers listed on the Pacer roster were seniors this season, with Joar Bjelkholm joining Ward and Robinson-Thompson as the only potentially returning golfers that played in an event during the spring season. The sophomore finished 22nd in the Wexford Plantationa Invitational in February with a three-round score of 226.
Coupled with the addition of incoming golfers like Axel Ostensson of Sweden and Samuel Schiff of Switzerland, Carlisle thinks that returning core could allow for another good season in 2014-15.
“I think we’ll be pretty competitive again next year,” he said.
That was one of four events the Pacers won this season, including the abbreviated Peach Belt Conference Championship, marking the second consecutive PBC title for USCA. Robinson-Thompson also won the individual title with a 4-under 68 in the event’s only round, played at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, for the Pacers’ only individual win of the season.
“It’s like I told them at dinner tonight; I’m real proud of them,” Carlisle said after Wednesday’s round. “We had a lot of success on the year. We just didn’t finish quite like we wanted to.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.