EL DORADO, Ark. (11/1/16) – The Arkansas State men’s golf team claimed its first tournament championship of the season Tuesday, shooting a final-round 303 to move to the top of the Duck Commander Intercollegiate leaderboard on the 54-hole tournament’s final day of action.
Dating back to last season, the Red Wolves have now collected seven titles over their last 13 tournaments played. They were led by junior Tanner Napier, who earned medalist honors at a tourney for the second time of his career.
Competing in its final fall tournament this year, A-State recorded a combined 895 at the Mystic Creek Golf Club to top runner-up Stephen F. Austin by two strokes. The Red Wolves finished five strokes ahead of third-place and fellow Sun Belt Conference member Little Rock, while they also claimed wins over teams such as Oregon State, Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe.
The Red Wolves entered the tourney’s final day in a three-way tie for second place, but only one stroke behind then-leader Little Rock. A-State’s third-round 303 matched Oregon State for the best of the day and followed its 295 and 297 shot for the first and second rounds, respectively.
“There was nothing really magical about our performance – we just grinded it out, stayed competitive and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end,” said A-State head coach Mike Hagen. “We didn’t get off to a great start today, but hung around, and then something just clicked at (hole) number 11.
“Andrew (Huseman) birdied that hole and had a hole-in-one on 12, and that really just seemed to jump-start our round. Joel (Wendin) birdied 11, Zan Luka (Stirn) birdied 13 and Tanner birdied 11, 12 and 13, so we went from 12-over to seven-over during that stretch. We were able to build a little cushion there, and I think that is what won us the golf tournament.”
Coming off a runner-up showing his previous time out, Napier claimed his first individual championship since winning the Loyola Intercollegiate last season. He began play with a course-record 68 Sunday and followed with a 71 and 72 for the second and third rounds, respectively, giving him a career-low 211 that was five strokes better than runner-up Hogan Arey of ULM.
“Tanner played unbelievable golf,” Hagen said. “The way he went out and performed and made the amount of birdies he did was amazing. He put on a display with his iron-play this week.”
Napier was joined among the top-25 leaders by teammates Zan Luka Stirn and Joel Wendin. A freshman, Stirn recorded a combined 223 to finish a season-best tied for eighth place, which was also his second top-15 outing of the year. Wendin placed tied for 18th with a combined 228 as the sophomore picked up his third top-20 finish of the season.
“The courses and the fields we played this fall were tougher than some of the ones we played last year, but I think playing those type teams and courses prepared us for today,” said Hagen. “We’ve been grinding it out all fall and continuing to compete in each tournament, so those kinds of situations set you up for success down the road like it did today. The way were able to play this tournament, on this course, against this field was exciting, so we feel like we’ll be taking some momentum into the spring.”
Also competing for the Red Wolves, junior Andrew Huseman finished tied for 37th place with a 238, junior Kevin Kramarski tied for 42nd with a 239 and sophomore Matthew Cole tied for 44th with a 240. Cole competed as an individual.
ARKANSAS STATE RESULTS
Place, Name (RD1-RD2-RD3—Total)
1, Arkansas State (295-297-303—895)
1, Tanner Napier (68-71-72—211)
T8, Zan Luka Stirn (74-73-76—223)
T18, Joel Wendin (77-75-76—228)
T37, Andrew Huseman (76-83-79—238)
T42, Kevin Kramarski (81-78-80—239)
T44, *Matthew Cole (78-81-81—240)