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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

N.C. State gives Sykes the perfect retirement present

   In a busy Easter weekend of golf, I didn’t want to overlook Temple’s trip to Atlantic Coast Conference country for the Wolfpack Spring Open at the Lonnie Poole Golf Course at North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C.
   It did not go particularly well for the Owls as they finished 15th in the 16-team field at the Wolfpack, which concluded Saturday, but it was still a good tuneup for the American Athletic Conference Championship, which tees off Sunday at the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla.
   It was an emotional weekend in Raleigh as it was the final home tournament for retiring N.C. State head coach Richard Sykes, who is stepping down after 46 years. That’s 46. I’m going to guess that Coach Sykes is a beloved figure, having guided several generations of Wolfpack golfers.
   And his team rewarded Sykes’ nearly half-century at the helm with a resounding team success. Opening with an eye-popping 15-under-par 269 over the 7,046-yard, par-71 Lonnie Pool layout, N.C. State, No. 42 in the latest Golfstat rankings, went on to a rampaging 13-shot victory in the Wolfpack with a 31-under 821 total.
   No. 15 Clemson probably felt like it played pretty well, but the Tigers’ 18-under 834 total was only good enough for second place. No. 19 Duke finished third, but the Blue Devils were a distant 15 shots behind Clemson at 3-under 849.
   Temple’s AAC rival South Florida broke up the ACC party by finishing fourth at 2-under 850 and No. 108 Maryland took fifth at 1-under 851. Temple struggled home with a final-round 314 to finish 15th at 908.
   The Wolfpack’s effort was fueled by a 1-2 finish in the individual standings by Nolan Mills Jr., a sophomore from Charlotte, and Jacob McBride, a senior from Hartville, Ohio.
   Mills had rounds of 66, 67 and 67 to claim the individual crown with a 13-under 200 total. McBride shared the lead with Mills after a 6-under 65 in the middle round, but could only manage an even-par 71 in the final round. It was still good enough for a solid second at 9-under 204, four shots back of Mills.
   The Wolfpack had all five players in the lineup in the top 16. Benjamin Shipp, a freshman from Duluth, Ga., finished tied for 10th at 3-under 210 and Stephen Franken finished tied for 13th at 2-under 201.
   I found a familiar name in the Wolfpack’s lowest finisher, Harrison Rhoades, a sophomore from Raleigh, N.C. Rhoades was a key figure in Georgetown’s run to the Big East championship and a berth in the NCAA regionals as a freshman a year ago. His absence was notable in the Hoyas’ lineup this season, but I wasn’t sure where he had landed. Now I know. He went home to Raleigh.
   Rhoades finished tied for 16th at 1-under 212. But his opening round of 5-under 66 was a big part of that 15-under salvo the Wolfpack threw at the field in the first of two rounds Friday.
   Clemson had two players in the top four, led by Carson Young, a senior from Pendleton, S.C. who finished third behind N.C. State’s top two at 7-under 206. Young posted scores of 69 and 67 in Friday’s double round before finishing up with a 2-under 70.
   William Nottingham, a freshman from Kingsport, Tenn., set a Clemson single-round record – the school’s produced a lot of very good golfers – with a sizzling 9-under 62 in the second round. He sandwiched that with rounds of 70 and 75 to finish in a tie for fourth at 6-under 207.
   Sharing fourth place with Nottingham at 6-under was Maryland’s David Kocher, a junior from Charlotte who added a final-round 71 to a pair of 68s in the first two rounds.
   Duke was led by Steven DiLisio, a freshman from Swampscott, Mass. who finished alone in sixth at 5-under 208. He finished up with an even-par 71 after opening with rounds of 68 and 69 Friday.
   It will be interesting to see how the form from last weekend holds up for the ACC schools which tee off in the conference championship tournament Friday at Musgrove Mill Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer design in Clinton, S.C.
   Temple was led by John Barone, a redshirt sophomore from Dunmore. After an opening-round 76, Barone had solid rounds of 73 and 72 to finish tied for 51st at 8-over 221.
   None of the other Owls were able to better 80 in the final round. Sophomore Gary McCabe, a former La Salle standout, opened with a 1-over 72, but finished with an 82 to end up tied for 70th at 227.
   Trey Wren, a sophomore from Suffolk, Va. who has been the Owls’ top performer this season, was another shot back in a tie for 72nd at 228. After a pair of 74s, Wren finished with an 80.
   Sophomore Sam Soeth, who starred scholastically at Marple Newtown, finished tied for 83rd at 234 after a final-round 81. Junior Mark Farley, a Calvary Christian product, finished tied for 85th at 237 after a final-round 81.

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