The Villanova men’s golf team headed south last week, away from the land of Nor’Easters that knock down trees and knock out power, to warmer climes to get the spring portion of its 2017-’18 campaign started.
If they missed the one or two days in February when temperatures allowed for some golf around here, the Villanova players have not have played golf outside of a simulator for a while. Jim Wilkes’ team teed it up in the Fort Lauderdale Intercollegiate, which wrapped up Tuesday at Fort Lauderdale Country Club’s North Course and then snuck in a trip Friday to St. Simons Island, Ga. for a one-day mini-tournament against NAIA power Coastal Georgia and Saint Joseph’s of Maine, a Division III program.
Villanova ran into Drexel in Fort Lauderdale, the Dragons also kicking off their spring campaign. Drexel had closed its fall campaign with a hard-fought one-shot victory over Temple in the City 6 Championship at the Union League Golf Club at Torresdale. Villanova finished in a tie for fourth with Saint Joseph’s at Torresdale, 17 shots behind Drexel.
It played out pretty much the same way in Fort Lauderdale as the Drexel finished 10th, carding a final round of 5-over 293 over the par-72 North Course layout for a 24-over 888 total. Villanova was consistent with a pair of 301s in Monday’s double-round and a 302 in Tuesday’s final round to finish last in the field of 14 at 904, 16 shots behind Drexel.
Austin Peay fired an 8-under 280 in the final round to overtake Toledo and claim the team title by three shots over the Rockets. The Governors opened with a 4-under 284 and stumbled a little in the afternoon Monday with an 11-over 299 before surging past Toledo and finishing with a 1-under 863 total. Austin Peay celebrated its first tournament win since it won its own tournament in 2014 and its first tourney title away from home since 2013.
Toledo, which took a 10-shot lead into the final round, carded a 5-over 293 Tuesday to finish second at 2-over 866. But the Rockets didn’t blow this tournament, Austin Peay won it. Florida Gulf Coast, behind individual winner Cole Castro, a freshman from Homestead, Fla., surged up the leaderboard with an 11-under 277 in the final round to finish third at 5-over 869.
Loyola of Maryland carded a solid 7-under 281 in the final round to finish fourth at 11-over 875, six shots behind Florida Gulf Coast. Boston College and Florida Atlantic shared fifth place at 13-over 877, the Eagles posting a final round of 4-over 282 and the Owls firing a second straight 1-over 289 to finish up.
Austin Peay had three players finish in the 10, led by Austin Lancaster, a sophomore from Hendersonville, Tenn. who fired a sizzling 5-under 67 in the final round to get a share of second place at 5-under 211, a shot behind Castro.
Alex Vegh, a sophomore from Gahanna, Ohio., did Lancaster one better with a dazzling final round of 6-under 66 to finish tied for fourth at 1-under 215. Michael Bosse, a sophomore from Rochester Hills, Mich., finished up with a 74 to finish tied for ninth at even-par 216.
Chase Korte, a freshman from Metropolis, Ill., finished tied for 39th at 8-over 224 after a final-round 76 and fellow freshman Jay Fox of Springfield, Tenn., finished tied for 82nd at 234. But Fox did something you love to see from a freshman golfer, bouncing back from an 83 in the second round Monday afternoon with a crucial counter, a 1-over 73, in the final round.
Castro, who had opened with rounds of 70 and 73 in Monday’s double-round, fired a 5-under 67 Tuesday for a 6-under 210 total that gave him the individual title.
Boston College’s Matt Naumec, a junior from Wibraham, Mass., matched Austin Peay’s Vegh for the low round of the day Tuesday with a 6-under 66 to share second with the Governors’ Lancaster at 5-under 211.
Three players joined Vegh in the group tied for fourth at 1-under 215, including Toledo’s Joe Bryce, a sophomore from Scotland, Old Dominion’s Nick Rencis, a junior from Long Valley, N.J., and Hartford’s Justin Sheparovich, a sophomore from Irvine, Calif. Bryce matched par in the final round with a 72, Rencis posted a 2-over 74 and Sheparovich moved up the leaderboard with a 4-under 68.
Drexel was led by Adam Mistretta, a sophomore from Livermore, Calif. who opened with a 1-under 71 before adding rounds of 76 and 74 to finish tied for 25th at 5-over 221.
Sophomore Alex Butler, a member of St. Joseph Prep’s 2014 PIAA Class AAA championship team, also opened strong with a 2-under 70 before adding rounds of 79 and 75 to finish tied for 39th at 8-over 224.
Senior Aaron Fricke, a former Garden Spot standout, bounced back from an opening 84 with rounds of 70 and 71 to finish tied for 45th at 9-over 225. Fricke was the hero of the City 6 victory, making birdie on the last hole to claim the individual title and lift the Dragons to the team crown. Playing out of Lancaster Country Club, Fricke reached the second round of match play in the BMW Philadelphia Amateur championship last summer.
Sophomore Connor Schmidt a member of the 2015 Peters Township team that was the PIAA Class AAA runnerup, was also in the group along with Fricke tied for 45th at 225 after a final round of 1-over 73.
Rounding out the Drexel lineup was Jeffrey Cunningham, a freshman from West Palm Beach, Fla. who carded a final-round 75 to finish tied for 73rd at 231.
Villanova was led at Fort Lauderdale by senior Andy Butler, a member of the 2012 PIAA Class AAA championship team as a junior at Manheim Township. Butler had consistent rounds of 73, 75 and 74 to finish tied for 30th at 6-over 222.
With the trip including the Fort Lauderdale Intecollegiate and the one-day event at St. Simons Island, Wilkes brought nearly his entire roster along as he tries to figure out who will be his best five. The rust of a long winter was evident for the Wildcats.
Reb Banas, a freshman from Wannetka, Ill., competed as an individual in Fort Lauderdale and was Villanova’s second-highest finisher, opening with a 1-over 73 and closing with a 77 to end up tied for 50th at 10-over 226.
Zach Egermayer, a senior from Glen Rock, N.J. who has been a fixture in the lineup for much of his career on the Main Line, and Connor Daly, a sophomore from Bronxville, N.Y., both ended up in a group tied for 57th at 227. Egermayer posted a final round of 3-over 75 while Daly carded a 77.
Matt Barnes, a freshman from Bethesda, Md. who showed some promise in the fall, finished tied for 62nd at 228 after a final-round 76.
Will Byrne, a senior from McLean, Va., teed it up as an individual and sandwiched a 77 in the middle round with a pair of 78s to finish tied for 70th at 230.
The other two players in the group of five that counted for team scoring, Andrew MacMillan, a senior from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Andrew Bowyer, a junior from Summit, N.J., struggled in Fort Lauderdale. MacMillan finished 86th at 247 after a second consecutive 83 to finish up and Bowyer was another five shots back in 89th at 252 after a final-round 82.
Daly was at his best on Sea Island Golf Club’s 6,935-yard, par-72 Retreat Course as he fired a 3-under 69 to take medalist honors in Friday’s one-day event against Coastal Georgia and St. Joseph’s.
Coastal Georgia might be an NAIA school, but the Mariners clearly take their golf seriously. Fielding A and B squads, Coastal Georgia swept the top two spots, the A team carding a 3-over 291 and the B team finishing just seven shots behind in second at 10-over 298. Villanova was third at 302 with Saint Joseph’s finishing fourth at 335.
Coastal Georgia accounted for seven of the next eight spots behind Daly in the individual standings, led by Mark Johnson, a junior from St. Simons Island, Ga. who was right at home on the Retreat Course, carding a 1-under 71 to claim runnerup honors.
Kyle Kidd, a sophomore from Crystal River, Fla., and Spencer Wright, a freshman from Blackshear, Ga., shared third place at even-par 72 and Lauri Hacklin a senior from Finland, Tim Gamborg, a freshman from Norway and Harrison Stafford, a senior from Savannah, Ga., shared fifth place, each posting a 2-over 74.
Villanova’s Butler broke up the Coastal Georgia juggernaut a little as he completed a solid trip with a 3-over 75 to get a share of eighth place with the Mariners’ Jackson Lawlor, a freshman from Peachtree City, Ga.
Villanova’s Connor Downey, a sophomore from Franklin, Tenn., competed as an individual and seized the opportunity to finish tied for 10th with a solid 76. Egermayer and Barnes each carded a 79 to finish tied for 14th and Banas rounded out the counting lineup with an 82 that left him in 20th place.
Bowyer finished another shot behind Banas in 21st with an 83 and Byrne and MacMillan struggled with respective rounds of 89 and 94.
Villanova comes home for an intense April, which gets started Easter Sunday, April 1, with the opening round of the Coca-Cola Intercollegiate. Villanova hosts the Wildcat Invitational April 9 and 10 at White Manor Country and plays in the one-day Finnegan Invitational at Chester Valley Golf Club.
It’s all in preparation for the Big East Championship, which tees off April 29 at Callawasie Island Golf Club in Okatie, S.C. It will be interesting to see which five emerge for Wilkes for the Big East Championship.