Missouri’s golf team remained undefeated on Sunday, and Tigers coach Mark Leroux wasn’t making any apologies. In fact, he was looking for a few.
“There are a lot of naysayers out there that are saying the Missouri Tigers aren’t playing anybody, that they’re playing weak fields,” Leroux said after his team won its fourth consecutive tournament with a one-stroke victory in the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate at Blackthorn Club. “I think they need to apologize to teams like Iowa and Wake Forest and whoever else I could name, not to mention all the good teams that were here. We just played some really good teams.”
The Tigers entered the final round four strokes behind Tennessee and didn’t secure the championship until Jace Long tapped in a 3-foot par putt on the final hole.
The Vols and Tigers were tied at seven under par with the last group having two holes to play. When Tennessee’s Mike Nagy made a bogey on the 17th, it put Missouri up by one.
That left Nagy needing to birdie the final hole to force a tie. After his approach shot flew the green, his birdie chip stopped an inch from the cup. Long, the defending individual champion, then had the luxury of two-putting to give his team the championship.
Missouri finished at seven under par after shooting two under on Sunday. Tennessee shot three over.
“A lot of it has to with team cohesion and team chemistry,” said Leroux, who coached Johnson Citians Adam Shanks, Joe Humston and Jimmy Humston at Austin Peay. “We’ve got five guys who can play now. It’s like a lightning bolt has hit this team.”
Memphis’ Grant Milner, a junior from Knoxville, won the individual title after his closing 72 left him at 10 under par. He won by two over Wake Forest’s Evan Beck.
Milner started the final round with a five-stroke advantage but a double bogey at the 10th hole gave Beck a share of the lead.
Beck got to nine under par before making bogey at No. 18 to finish eight under. That left Milner with a one-stroke lead until he sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the 17th to give him some breathing room.
“I really wanted to make that putt on 17 because I wanted a two-stroke lead on the last hole,” Milner said.
It was Milner’s first college victory.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “It’s been a goal for a long time. You have to play great for 54 holes and I really only had three bad holes for the tournament.”
Beck shot his second consecutive 69. Missouri’s Emilio Cuartero closed with a 69 to finish third individually at six under par. Cuartero and Beck were the only two golfers to break par all three rounds.
Host school East Tennessee State finished ninth despite posting one of the better scores of final day. The Bucs shot one under par on Sunday, one of only four sub-par totals of the day.
Freshman Chris Hickman was ETSU’s low man with a 70. HHHe was followed by Rhys Pugh and Adrian Meronk, who each shot 72. Scott Gibson had a 73.
Gudmundar Kristjansson finished with a 74 that was looking a lot better than that. He was three under par before he bogeyed his final five holes.
Gibson was the Bucs’ top finisher, tying for 23rd place.
UNC-Wilmington made the biggest move of the day, shooting seven under par to finish third at five under. Memphis and Virginia rounded out the top five.