LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (10/23/18) – The Arkansas State men’s golf team stormed back from a ninth-place standing and nine-stroke deficit after one round of action at the Little Rock Invitational to claim the 54-hole tournament’s title Tuesday at the Chenal Country Club.
The Red Wolves opened play Monday with a first-round 298 that left it trailing co-leaders UNLV and Lamar by nine strokes, but climbed back to third place by the end of the second 18 holes. A-State then fired a tournament-best 282 for the final round to edge runner-up UNLV by one stroke.
Arkansas State claimed its 12th tournament title since the 2015-16 season, its first under head coach Mike Hagen. The program has now placed runner-up or better in seven of its last 11 tournaments.
Playing the last fall tournament of their season, the Red Wolves completed the first half of their schedule with two championships, one runner-up performance and a third-place finish in five tournaments. They compiled a 65-8-0 record and are currently ranked 23rd in the nation in Bushnell Golfweek Coaches Poll.
All five players competing in A-State’s team lineup claimed a top-25 finish, including Matthew Cole, Luka Naglic, Zan Luka Stirn, Joel Wendin and Julien Sale to help the squad post a combined score of one-under-par 863. The Red Wolves led the 16-team field that included Sun Belt Conference members Little Rock, ULM, Texas State and UT Arlington.
“This was one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting, golf tournament’s that I’ve ever coached,” said Hagen. “We obviously didn’t get off to the start we wanted, but we continued to compete and then stayed focused as it became tightly contested down the stretch.
“It was great to see that the team was upbeat and had really positive attitudes as we started the second round. I thought we settled in at that point, and as we got it rolling our players started to feed off the success and energy of each other. We came out hot in the third round, and it really showed."
Cole led the Red Wolves as he collected his best finish of the season, tying for second place with a 213 total (77-67-69) that was his lowest three-round score of the year. The junior has now picked up four career top-10 finishes.
Posting his second top-10 and third top-15 finish this year, freshman Naglic shot 216 (75-70-71) to place tied for sixth. Stirn shot a 219 (72-76-71) to put him in a tie for 13th place, giving him a top-25 finish in every tournament this season. The junior All-Sun Belt Conference performer now owns 13 career top-15 finishes.
Wendin also shot a 219 (77-71-71) to tie for 13th place along with Stirn. A senior, Wendin recorded his 17th career top-15 finish and has placed among the top 25 individuals in every outing this year. Tying for 24th place, Sale shot a 221 (74-75-72) and ended the fall with three top-25 appearances.
Competing as an individual for A-State, senior Jakub Bares tied for 60th place with a 229 (72-78-79).
Arkansas State returns to action Feb. 24-26 at the Tiger Invitational in Opelika, Ala.
ARKANSAS STATE RESULTS
Place, Name (RD 1-RD 2-RD 3—Total)
1, Arkansas State (298-283-282—863)
T2, Matthew Cole (77-67-69—213)
T6, Luka Naglic (75-70-71—216)
T13, Zan Luka Stirn (72-76-71—219)
T13, Joel Wendin (77-71-71—219)
T24, Julien Sale (74-75-72—221)
T60, *Jakub Bares (72-78-79—229)
*Competed as an individual