April 10, 2013 10:42:16 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
WEST POINT -- By the time the final holes were played in the Old Waverly Collegiate Championships, the inaugural event already was a huge success.
Mississippi State University then decided to give a little extra Tuesday to ensure victory.
After watching the University of Alabama at Birmingham tie the proceedings on the final hole of the third round, the Bulldogs and Blazers played a sudden death playoff, with No. 28 MSU capping its regular season by taking home the top prize at Old Waverly Golf Club.
"We didn't click on all cylinders this week, but we did just enough," MSU coach Clay Homan said. "I was really proud of the way our guys responded at the end in the playoff with the kind of pressure-packed situation. We made five pars and they did what they had to do.
"It was a gritty performance. It wasn't pretty sometimes, but sometimes you have to win them kind of ugly, and that's what we did."
The Bulldogs held the better of the competition for most of the two-day, three-round event. After some early struggles in the opening round, the Bulldogs grabbed the lead by early Monday afternoon. MSU built as much as a five-stroke lead throughout the day, only to see UAB trim the deficit back to a stroke by the end of Monday's second round. The University of South Alabama held the opening-round lead with a 283, three strokes ahead of UAB and four ahead of MSU.
MSU expanded the lead early Tuesday, only to see UAB rally from a four-strokes deficit over the final eight holes to force a playoff. In regulation, each team finished at 867, which was 3-over-par. South Alabama finished third at 876, while Southeastern Louisiana University was next at 880.
"We were just trying to get it going and stick with the game plan," MSU junior Axel Boasson said. "The goal was to shoot part in each round and to use the course to our advantage. Today's play for me was a little bit up and down. I just kind of hung in there. I didn't do anything really good, but nothing really bad."
Boasson is the reigning Southeastern Conference player of the week. His 1-over 217 helped him finish 10th, his fourth top-10 finish of the season.
The University of Cincinnati's Emerson Newsome took medalist honors with a 6-under 210. The freshman's opening-round 67 was the tournament's best score. It featured five birdies and no bogies and helped Newsome become the Bearcats' first tournament winner since 2007.
Junior Chad Ramey, of Fulton, carded a 215 for MSU, which was sixth. Ramey has seven top-10 finishes this season. Teammates Joe Sakulpolphaisan and Robi Calvesbert tied for 13th with a 218.
"It was about leadership and resiliency," Homan said. "This team has the best leadership I've had."
In the playoff, the Bulldogs finished at par, while the Blazers had two bogeys on the 18th hole.
"We really didn't have time to think about it too much," Homan said. "We got one and went straight to the 18th hole. We won the coin toss, so we put the two we wanted out there first. Barrett (Edens) and Robi (Calvesbert) came through with two nice pars to give us a good start.
"We just we knew had to execute the shots. It was a clutch performance there at the end."
MSU won its fourth tournament of the season. The four victories allowed this season's squad to tie the 1974-75 team for most victories in a season. The victory also will also give the Bulldogs increased confidence for the Southeastern Conference championships, which begin April 19 at Sea Island Golf Course in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
"We have confidence because we're winning, but we still have things we have to get better at," Homan said. "In golf, there's always something you're working on. You are never perfect at this game; you just continue to try to get better. Even though we won we can't be complacent with what we're doing. We have to continue to get better each and every day, but it is rewarding to see the work that you put in pay off. We've had three victories already this semester and four over all. It's been a phenomenal year so far. I'm very proud of the guys."
The Bulldogs found one of their home courses to be to their liking. The 14-team even drew rave reviews from participants, coaches, and spectators. MSU was in the host role of a regular-season golf tournament for the first time in 39 years. The MSU women's team also hosted a tournament last fall at Old Waverly.
"It felt good to be playing a home course for a home tournament," Boasson said. "It is a great advantage to be a part of that."
Ole Miss shot a 305 Tuesday and finished 10th. Sophomore Blake Morris carded a 1-over 73 to lead the Rebels in the final round.
After an up and down day yesterday, Morris rebounded with four birdies to finish in a tie for 41st with a three-round total of 227. Fellow sophomore Joe Lewis finished in a tie for 27th with a two-day total of 224 after firing a 2-over par 74. Junior Tom Brown finished one shot behind Lewis in a tie for 34th after turning a third round score of 77 and a three-round total of 226.
The freshman duo of Connor Davis and Forrest Gamble struggled in the third round after pacing the Rebels on Monday. Davis carded an 80 to finish in a tie for 44th with a two-day score of 229 and was joined by Gamble, who shot an 83 in the final round to finish at 229.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter