Sandhills win 4th national golf title in a row

Led by medalist Daniel Aitken, Sandhills Community College golfers grabbed the top four spots individually as the Flyers rolled to their fourth NJCAA Division III men’s national title in a row on Friday afternoon in Chautauqua, NY.

Coach Gus Ulrich’s squad defeated second-place Georgia Military College by 48 strokes in the field of 11 teams and 78 golfers. The Bulldogs were runners-up for the fourth year in a row. The national title was the fifth overall for the Flyers and the fifth for Ulrich as the coach.

The Flyers’ 72-hole team score of 1,140 broke the tournament record they set a year ago by seven strokes. Aitken, a sophomore from Finzean, Scotland, posted a 5-under par score of 69-70-72-72-283. Teammate Ben Read, who hails from Banchory, Scotland, and set the individual tournament record a year ago, finished second, one stroke back, with scores of 73-69-70-72-284.

The remarkable team performance included sophomore Watcharakan Chankarn in third place with scores of 77-69-71-72 and freshman Liam Harris in fourth after rounds of 74-72-75-71-292. Twelve of the four Flyers, total of 12 rounds in the tournament, were completed in even par or better.

A fifth top-10 finisher for the Flyers was freshman Landon Cabingas, with scores of 75-81-69-73-298.

Continuing a tradition from Ulrich’s first national title team in 2014, the coach and his players took a plunge in a chilly Lake Chautauqua afterward.

According to Ulrich, the Flyers played their best golf on the final three days when rain, wind, and chilly temperatures brought out the umbrellas and rain gear.

“They showed a lot of patience and were solid those last three days,” the coach said. “We never had a bad day. They all got it done and there was a great blend of friendship and confidence in each other. “Daniel and Ben were battling for the individual title, but pulling for each other at the same time.”

Aitken and Read will be heading to Raleigh Airport on Sunday for the start of their return trip to Scotland. Aitken called the tournament experience one of the best in his life.

“We all did the best we could, and we’re super happy to win,” he said.

Among those also traveling to New York were Athletic Director Mike Apple and President Dr. Sandy Stewart.

“It is an incredible accomplishment by our golfers and Coach Ulrich in winning a fourth consecutive national championship,” Apple said. “Not only have we won four in a row, but the margin of victory has been incredible.

“It is fun to see a collection of athletes locked in to win a championship, and they certainly were.”

Stewart, arrived in Chautauqua in time for Friday’s final round.

“It is incredible when you look at the scoreboard to see what occurred over four days,” he said. “You can’t win a championship in golf with one good day. These young men put together four good days.

“With their sportsmanship and the way they carry themselves, they really embody what a college athlete should be. It really was a joy to watch.”

Team standings — Sandhills 291-280-282-287-1,140, 2. Georgia Military 300-291-295-302-1,188, 3. DuPage CC 300-304-310-311-1,225, 4. SUNY Niagara 316-330-309-313-1,268, 5. Minnesota State 322-328-322-334-1,306, 6. Ulster CC 337-328-322-325-1,312, 7. RCSJ-Gloucester 335-352-318-323-1,328, 8. Delta College 341-326-328-344-1,339, Hudson Valley 342-344-324-337-1,347, 10. Jamestown CC 343-331-328-357-1,359, 11. Westmoreland County 379-355-337-363-1,434.

Individual leaders — Aitken (SCC) 69-70-72-72-283, 2. Read (SCC) 73-69-70-72-284, 3. Chankarn (SCC) 77-69-71-72-289, 4. Harris (SCC) 74-72-75-71-292, 5. Brady Wentz (GMC) 78-70-68-78-294, T6. Gehrig Massey (GMC) 71-75-75-74-295, T6. Patrick Murray (UCNJ Union) 77-71-70-77-295, 8. Cabingas (SCC) 75-81-69-73-298, T9. Ross Tetrault (GMC) 72-73-78-76-299, T9. Anthony Regimand (DuPage) 76-68-76-79-299.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel contributor C. Bergmann. Courtesy photo.

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