Special to the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — VICTORIA, Texas – Conditions were drastically different — and the scores improved, too — but Ashford remained in third place Tuesday on the final day of the Association of Independent Institutions Championships in men’s golf.
On a hot and humid day, the Saints shot rounds of 289 and 300 to finish with a three-round total of 892. Cal State San Marcos, ranked third in the NAIA, finished with a 294-289-291—874 score to win the tournament by seven shots over No. 13 British Columbia and earn an automatic berth in the NAIA National Championships.
The 23rd-ranked Saints entered the day in third place after rain shortened day one to one round.
“Our guys left it all out on the course today,” Ashford coach Josh Heiple said. “It was a tough way to end the tournament, but we have to take away the fact that we were right there with two of the best teams in the country.”
In a lineup that featured all of the team’s five seniors, two Saints tied for sixth place with 221s. Chien Hau Tan (75-68-78) and Dan Balgooyen (77-70-74) were the lone Ashford players to finish in the top 10. In round two, Tan and Balgooyen each matched his career-low round score, set two previous times each.
After topping the Ashford scorecard in round one, Trent Specht finished just outside of the top 10, tying for 11th with a 74-75-76—225. Right behind him was Ross Milne, who carded a 227 (77-76-74) to tie for 14th place.
Jimmy Joachim completed the Ashford scoring, turning in a 78-77-76—231 to tie for 19th place.
University of Houston-Victoria’s Vance Edwards took medalist honors with a 72-71-70—213 to win by two shots.
The Saints will have to wait to see if they have earned an at-large bid to the National Championships, but if this was the final tournament of the year, it was a memorable season.
The team’s five seniors helped lead the Saints to six tournament championships and put Ashford on the map with the program’s first appearance in the NAIA top-25 rankings.
“Our program, as well as myself, owe everything that happened this week to these five seniors,” Heiple said. “They have been committed all year, and they changed a program. It has been a great year. We rewrote the record books, and it’s going to take something special to top what they did. Our kids raised the bar this year, and it was a special thing to be a part of.”