Richmond claimed its first Atlantic 10 championship in emphatic fashion, cruising to a 13-shot victory as the conference tournament concluded Sunday at Grand Cypress Golf Club’s New Course in Orlando, Fla.
The Spiders, at No. 98 in the latest Golfstat rankings the only A-10 team in the top 100, had a dream opening round in which all five of the players in their lineup broke par as they carded a 15-under-par 273 total over the 6,794-yard, par-72 New Course layout and never looked back. Richmond added an even-par 288 in windy conditions Saturday and finished up with a 9-under 279 in Sunday’s final round for a 24-under 840 total.
Virginia Commonwealth was the runnerup, carding a final round of 4-under 284 to finish at 11-under 853. Dayton, with a final round of 7-under 281, took third at 10-under 854. George Washington was fourth at 3-under 861 after a final-round 289 and Davidson took fifth at 6-over 870 after finishing up with a 2-under 286.
La Salle, which matched par in the middle round with a 288, finished eighth at 892 after a final-round 313. Saint Joseph’s got off to a great start, breaking par in the opening round with a 1-under 287, before falling back with rounds of 301 and 309 to finish last of the 11 teams at 897.
Richmond had four of its players finish in the top five, led by a pair of freshmen who were two of the three players tied for second in the individual standings at 7-under 209. Zack Justice of Orlando, who opened with a 6-under 66, and Andrew Sciarretta of Wilton, Conn., who opened with a 68, ended up three shots behind individual champion Jack Lang, a sophomore at Davidson from Lexington, Mass.
Richmond also had two of the three players who finished in a tie for fifth at 5-under 211. Keegan Hoff, a senior from Charlotte, N.C., opened with a 4-under 68, and Matthew Lowe a junior from Farmingdale, N.Y., had steady rounds of 70, 70 and 71.
Rounding out the Richmond lineup was Mark Reilly, a senior from Babylon, N.Y. who finished tied for 22nd at 5-over 221. He opened with a 1-under 71, a sub-par round the Spiders had the luxury of throwing out.
Davidson’s Lang opened with a 2-under 70 and added a pair of 68s to capture the individual title at 10-under 206. Lang had three birdies on the final nine to pull away from the field.
Joining Richmond’s Justice and Sciarretta in the tie for second at 209 was Virginia Commonwealth’s Alister Balcombe, a junior from England. Balcombe and Sciarretta both finished up with a 5-under 67 in the final round, the low rounds of the day.
Joining Richmond’s Hoff and Lowe in the tie for fifth at 211 was Dayton’s Nick Paxson, a senior from Cincinnati who finished with a 3-under 69.
La Salle was led by redshirt senior P.J. Acierno, a former La Salle High standout who wrapped up one of the finest careers in program history by finishing tied for 20th at 3-over 219. Acierno had steady rounds of 72, 73 and 74.
Nick Gruber, a sophomore from Cincinnati, got off to a tremendous start with rounds of 71 and 70 before cooling off with a final-round 80 to finish tied for 22nd at 5-over 221. Evan Gaesser, a freshman from Kendall, N.Y., gave the Explorers a third player inside the top 30 as he finished tied for 29th at 222 after a final-round 76.
Senior Joe Markmann, a teammate of Acierno’s on some strong La Salle High teams, finished 50th at 232. Markmann fired a 2-under 70 in the middle round before struggling to a final-round 84. Sophomore Nick Geiman, a York Catholic product, finished 54th at 238 after a final-round 83.
Saint Joseph’s was led by Michael O’Brien, a freshman from West Chester, Ohio who finished tied for 29th at 222 after a final-round 76. Sophomore Ross Pilliod, a former Berks Catholic standout (and occasional Stonewall caddy last summer), capped a solid spring by finishing tied for 33rd at 223.
Senior Drew Taylor, a Bermudian Springs product, finished tied for 40th at 225 after a final-round 78, junior Tyler Sokolis, a Central Bucks West product, finished tied for 44th at 227 after a final-round 79, and freshman Reed Winkler, a former Salesianum standout, finished 55th at 240 after a final-round 82.
It was an especially strong start for the Hawks when Pilliod and Sokolis both carded 1-under 71s, O’Brien matched par with a 72 and Taylor, the lone senior in the lineup, posted a 1-over 73. Taylor is the only player in the lineup in Orlando who won’t be back, so the Hawks should be solid next fall.