Trailing Florida by five strokes going into the final three holes of the final round, Auburn forced a playoff and then won the team title on the first hole to repeat as team champions at the 32nd Schenkel Invitational. The 32nd annual tournament, contested at the par-72, 6,962-yard Forest Heights Country Club, witnessed its first team playoff since 1999 when Clemson defeated Georgia. Ninth-ranked Auburn becomes the first repeat champion at the Schenkel since Georgia, which won the team titles in 2000 and 2001.
Clinging to a six-stroke lead over second-place Florida heading into today’s final round, the fifth-ranked Tigers quickly saw their advantage vanish as the Gators fired 7-under at the turn. Auburn shot 6-over through the 15th hole, but even parred the final three holes to keep pace with Florida. The Gators, posting 5-under heading into the last three holes, finished the round at 5-over for a tie with the Tigers for first place at 16-under 848.
Both teams met on the first hole for the start of playoff competition with two five-man pairings. Florida won the coin toss to determine the group pairings and elected to have three players in the first five-man pairing, allowing Auburn to place three of its five players in the next pairing. The Tigers won the playoff on the first hole with the team recording three pars, one bogey and birdie to Florida’s two pars, two bogeys and one birdie.
On the individual side, Florida’s Bank Vongvanij held off North Florida’s Kevin Aylwin by one-stroke for individual medalist honors. Vongvanij parred the 16th and 17th hole to hold onto the lead and win at 9-under (66-68-73=207). Aylwin scattered four birdies on the back nine to close the round at 5-under 67 to advance eight spots up to a second-place tie with Auburn’s Kyle Kopsick at 8-under. Florida’s Phillip Choi placed fourth at 6-under. Auburn’s Blayne Barber and Ben Kholes of Virginia finished at 5-under for a fifth-place tie.
Nineteenth-ranked Virginia tied its 2010 performance at third with a 6-under 858. No. 12 LSU fell back to fourth place at 2-under 862, while North Florida jumped ahead of No. 20 N.C. State for fifth position at 1-under 863.
Georgia Southern, beginning the final round in a tie for 10th place, climbed three spots into a seventh-place tie with Minnesota. The Eagles concluded the three-day tournament at 16-over (297-285-298) to finish ahead of No. 38 Tennessee, Ole Miss, No. 27 Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Mississippi State.
“It was good to move up the board a couple spots,” said Head Coach Larry Mays. “We got three solid scores in today and Sharkey hung in there after a really rough start. Hopefully we can use the last two days of the Schenkel to build some confidence going into our last couple of events in the spring.”
Senior Matt Deal (Statesboro, Ga.) led the Eagles on the leaderboard, finishing in a tie for 20th place with a 2-over 218 (74-71-73). Deal carded four birdies, three on the front-nine, for a 1-over 73. Thomas Sharkey (Helensburgh, Scotland) battled the back-nine and shot 2-under on the final five holes to sign for a 6-over 78. Sharkey would finish in a 32nd-place tie.
Teammates Logan Blondell (Lakeland, Fla.) and Florian Sander (Bregenz, Austria) finished the Schenkel Invitational in tie for 50th place at 8-over 224. Blondell sunk two birdies on the front-nine to finish even-par while Sander shot an 81. Jake Ware (Statesboro, Ga.) posted his best round of the tournament, recording a 3-over 75 for a tie for 74th place.
Three players competed as individuals for Georgia Southern this weekend. Drew Guffey (Bartow, Fla.) finished at 6-over 222 for the tournament, placing him in a tie for 40th place (73-67-82). Hayden Anderson (Knoxville, Tenn.) shot 4-over 76 in his last round to move up two spots to a 60th-place tie (73-78-76). Lewis Gruber (Tallahassee, Fla.) shot a 5-over 77 for a 229 three-round total.
Georgia Southern closes out its regular season in two weeks at the Insperity Augusta State Invitational April 2-3rd. The 54-hole tournament, at Forest Hills Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., will be the Eagles final tuneup before they compete at the Southern Conference tournament April 17-19th, at The Country Club of South Carolina.