Men's Golf Wins 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship

Photo Courtesy of NCAA Photos
Photo Courtesy of NCAA Photos

HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida—Wittenberg University's men's golf team won its first NCAA Division III National Championship, and Garrett Brickley claimed a tie for first place individually at Mission Inn Resort in Howey in the Hills, Florida on Friday.

Wittenberg came in ranked #10 in the country in the GCAA Poll, as the Tigers fended off #1 Huntingdon, #2 UT Tyler and #17 Guilford on their way to the first Golf National Championship in school history.

Despite starting the final round in first place, Wittenberg had to work to hold on to their slim lead on Friday. Right out of the gates, Wittenberg dropped into second place, before finishing the front-nine at four-over as a team, reclaiming the top-spot on the leaderboard.

The Tigers and the Quakers of Guilford college flip-flopped back and forth on the leaderboard throughout the day, but after a Sam Stilwell birdie to finish out his final round at one-over, and a Brickley birdie on 17, Wittenberg and Guilford were knotted up at +29 overall atop the leaderboard.

On hole number 18, Brickley birdied, while Kell Graham of Guilford College double-bogeyed, giving the Tigers a two-stroke advantage with Cameron Willis of Wittenberg, and Josh Hill of Guilford left as the last group on the course.

Willis, who flirted with the top of the leaderboard throughout the four-round tournament, parred the final hole for Wittenberg, putting the finishing touches on the school's first Men's Golf National Championship.

Brickley shot up the leaderboard in the third round, and continued to trend upward in round number four. After a three-over 75 that landed the senior tied for sixth place after the third round, Brickley went up to second place individually after finishing the front-nine one-under. The back nine was kind to the senior, helping him climb to four-under after recording three birdies and six pars. The final two birdies for Brickley came on 17 and 18, securing the National Title.

Brickley finished tied for first place with Josh Gibson of Hope College, as both golfers finished the tournament one-under. The senior's clutch back-to-back birdies for Wittenberg not only secured the national title, but sent the tournament into an individual playoff for medalist honors. In the one hole-playoff, Brickely was edged out by Gibson of Hope College. 

Individually, Brickley paced the Tigers atop the leaderboard, with Willis finishing tied for 18th at +9, Stilwell finishing tied for 24th at +10, Colin Laszlo finishing in 41st at +15, and Mark David Wright in 42nd at +16.

Wittenberg's National Championship is the first for the Tigers since 2011 when Women's Volleyball ran the gauntlet in their National Tournament.

The 2017 Men's Golf National Championship is the first for Wittenberg in the sport, as Brickley's share of first place at the end of 72 holes is the highest finish by a Wittenberg men's golfer in program history.

Under head coach Jeff Roope, Wittenberg finished third in the country in 2015 and 2016, and fifth in 2014. The 2017 NCAC Conference Championship was the Tigers eighth consecutive under Roope's guidance, as the head coach was named a finalist for the National Coach of the Year earlier this week.