Oklahoma City Wins 11th National Championship
By Brian Thiessen, NAIA Media Coordinator
Silvis, Ill. -- (Individual Results | Team Results | Video Recap) Sophomore S.M. Lee of Dalton State (Ga.) and Oklahoma City University added to their impressive resumes at the 2018 NAIA Men's Golf National Championship at TPC Deere Run Friday.
Lee, the reigning NAIA Player of the Year and the first NAIA golfer named to the Palmer Cup team, won the individual national title by tying the NAIA's all-time low tournament score with a 12-under 272 while Oklahoma City captured the team crown for an NAIA-leading 11th time in program history with a 9-under 1127.
Lee never relinquished what was a five-shot lead entering the final round.
Oklahoma City's Rupert Kaminski, who entered the day in second place, birdied No. 2 and after Lee bogeyed No. 4, the margin was just three shots. But Lee responded by collecting birdies on Nos. 5 and 8 to regain control. He put together seven pars and two birdies on the back to win going away.
"There was definitely pressure," Lee said about Kaminski's early charge. "I knew I had a big lead but I still tried my best. They gave me a push and made me want to play better."
With the weather cooperating all week, Lee shot under par each of the four days. His opening-round 69 left him in an early tie for sixth place. A second-day 68 gave him a two-shot lead, and he followed with a 66 Thursday, tying the low round of the tournament, before closing out the eight-stroke win with Friday's 69. His 272 tied Sean Elliott for the lowest 72-hole score in the NAIA National Championship. Elliott, who won the 2015 title, and Lee are the only two Dalton State golfers to win the men's individual championship.
"I knew there were going to be some low numbers out there," Lee said. "The pins seemed easier than last year and nothing stressed me out. I thought if I could shoot a couple under each day, I'd be right there. The course played fun all week."
Jack Dyer of Keiser (Fla.) was national runner-up, posting a 4-under 280, highlighted by a first-round 66. Rowan Lester of Texas Wesleyan, Mark Johnson of Coastal Georgia and Ben Kendrick of Cumberlands (Ky.) tied for third with 3-under 281s. Kaminski was one of three players to card a 2-under 282. A total of 10 players finished under par at the 67th annual event.
The top 15 players plus ties were named to the all-tournament team as St. Ambrose University and the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau served as hosts for the third straight year and the sixth time in the last 10 years.
Oklahoma City matched Lee's dominance. The top-ranked Stars overcome what was for them a slow start to claim their 11th NAIA title. It is the third time Oklahoma City has been crowned national champion at TPC Deere Run, host of the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic, also winning here in 2010 and 2016.
The Stars were in ninth place after Tuesday's first round, 11 shots out of the lead. They climbed into third, still seven shots back, after a strong second day. A 276 Thursday gave Oklahoma City an eight-shot lead entering the final day and the Stars left little doubt, shooting a 5-under 279 to win by 13 shots.
"We fought hard," Oklahoma City coach Kyle Blaser said. "There is going to be some adversity in every round, and you're going to have a bad round, especially at a national tournament. You just want to make sure it's a bad round, not a horrible round, and we did that. We continually got better each day."
Kaminski was one of four Stars to end inside the top-11. Garrison Mendoza and Gaston Romero tied for ninth with 1-under 283s and David Meyers was 11th with his 1-over 285. Peri'Don Castille came in with a 288.
"This was such a great team effort," Blaser said. "This is one of the closest-knit teams I've coached and I'm so happy for them. The guys finished strong."
Dalton State finished second with a 4-over 1140. Texas Wesleyan (1141), Coastal Georgia (1142) and Keiser (1144) rounded out the top five.
The NAIA Men's Golf National Championship will head to Las Sendas Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz., the next two years before returning to TPC Deere Run in both 2021 and 2022.
2018 NAIA Men's Golf National Championship All-Tournament Team:
S.M. Lee, Dalton State (Ga.)
Jack Dyer, Keiser (Fla.)
Rowan Lester, Texas Wesleyan
Mark Johnson, Coastal Georgia
Ben Kendrick, Cumberlands (Ky.)
Andrew Williamson, Wayland Baptist (Texas)
Rupert Kaminski, Oklahoma City
Harrison Stafford, Coastal Georgia
Garrison Mendoza, Oklahoma City
Gaston Romero, Oklahoma City
David Meyers, Oklahoma City
Jake Bauer, Johnson & Wales (Fla.)
Erik Jonasson, Keiser (Fla.)
Blake Vise, Holy Cross (Ind.)
Colton Murphy, Rocky Mountain (Mont.)
Leo Mathard, Texas Wesleyan
Liam Gransden, Keiser (Fla.)
Victor Miron, Texas Wesleyan
Carlos Ardila, Southeastern (Fla.)