MURRELLS INLET — Regardless of what junior Andrew Dorn does over the remaining year-plus of his college eligibility, he has left his mark on the Coastal Carolina University men’s golf program.
Despite making a triple bogey on his first hole at the TPC of Myrtle Beach on Tuesday, Dorn shot an even-par 72 to share medalist honors at even-par 216 with Corey Conners of Kent State in the 13th annual General Jim Hackler Championship.
Though Coastal won the event it hosts in 2005, Dorn became CCU’s first individual Hackler champion.
“It’s good for my first college victory to be the home tournament, too, and be the first [CCU] player in tournament history to win it, that’s pretty special,” Dorn said.
The last dozen years of CCU golf has included All-Americans Dustin Johnson, Zack Byrd, Lindsay Renolds and Sebastian Soderberg. Johnson and Byrd were runners-up in 2005 and ’09, respectively, and Dan Obremski finished a shot out of the lead in 2010.
“It kind of shocked me that none of those guys have ever won,” Dorn said. “I guess it’s three rounds, and it’s just whoever is playing well that week, even though they are good players.”
A 3-over 291 in the final round allowed Middle Tennessee State to claim the team crown by two strokes over tournament favorite Kent State at 20-over 884. The Chants finished 21 strokes back in eighth in the 12-team event.
Dorn began the day a shot behind leader Rhys Pugh of East Tennessee State – who shot a 75 to finish fourth – and tied with two players, including Conners. But he quickly fell back with a triple-bogey 7 on his first hole, the difficult 452-yard fourth.
His tee shot was right, he punched out short of the fairway, hit his approach long and left of the green, chipped over the green then short of the green, and used his putter from off the green to two-putt. “I decided to putt it from well off the green,” Dorn said. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to touch my wedge again on this hole. He’s had enough.’
“… I had a few bad shots and they were all on the same hole. I was pretty nervous starting off. It was kind of natural. I was playing with the guy in first place … and was in contention. Once I made the triple I wasn’t very nervous any more; kind of got them all out of my system.”
The fifth hole is a 158-yard par-3 over water, and Dorn hit the green and two-putted before making birdie on the par-5 sixth. “As soon as the ball landed on the [fifth] green I was like, ‘OK, that’s good. Let’s go. You’re fine,’ ” he said.
Dorn bogeyed the par-3 seventh hole to fall back to 3 over, but birdied the par-4 11th with a 140-yard approach to 5 feet, par-5 14th with a 240-yard 3-iron to 6 feet and two-putt, and par-4 16th with a 20-foot putt from the rough.
“That’s been the story of my year: getting off to bad starts and turning it around and finishing strong,” Dorn said. “That’s really what I take pride in, finishing strong. I played my last 17 holes 3 under, so it was a great round of golf after that [triple].”
On his final four holes –18 through 3 – Dorn had birdie putts of 12, 8, 12 and 20 feet but was unable to convert any of them. “I had my opportunities and I was hitting good putts, I just barely missed them,” Dorn said. “That’s how the game is.”
Tuesday’s win is the first as a collegian for the West Chester, Ohio, native, though last summer he won the prestigious North-South Amateur in Pinehurst, N.C., and followed it up a few days later with the Ohio State Amateur title.
“It was just a matter of time before he was able to pick up a win,” Coastal Carolina coach Kevin McPherson said. “The kid’s a great ball-striker and has a good short game, and he knows this golf course. … We weren’t blindsided by him being at the top of the leaderboard. We kind of expected it.”
Dorn believes the win may be a harbinger of more success this spring season. “For me winning is a really big confidence boost and this game is all about confidence,” Dorn said. “I really think this will help propel my game and continue the good play for the rest of the year.”
Dorn has good company in his co-championship. Conners is Golfweek/Sagarin’s No. 2-ranked amateur in the world and the title marks the senior’s fourth collegiate victory.
“They’ve been kind of spread out but it always feels good to win,” said Conners, who finished third at the TPC last year. “I’ve been playing pretty well of late so it’s nice to see some hard work pay off.”
Conners also rallied for the title. He began the tournament with a 75, but closed his second-round with three consecutive birdies to shoot 69 and get back to even for the tournament. “That gave me some good vibes heading into today,” Conners said.
Conners had a solid final round with one birdie and one bogey, and chipped to 12 feet but missed the birdie putt on the 538-yard par-5 18th that would have given him the outright title. “I didn’t hit a great putt and left it short,” said Conners, who hit 16 greens in regulation Tuesday. “I gave myself a lot of good looks and just couldn’t convert.”
There are individual co-champions for the second consecutive year as no playoff is a tournament policy, mainly to avoid delaying the departure of schools on a tight travel schedule. “It’s less stressful not having a playoff, but playoffs are fun,” said Conners, who had time for extra holes. “They put the heat on you and you have to perform. But it’s all right.”
Middle Tennessee State had no problems closing with birdies. Three of the Blue Raiders’ four scoring players birdied their final hole to pull out the two-shot victory over Kent State, which at No. 22 in Golfweek’s college team rankings is 52 spots ahead of MTSU.
Senior Lucas Armstrong birdied his final hole, the par-4 first, and on the 18th hole, junior Payne Denman chipped to 10 feet for birdie and redshirt junior Brett Patterson reached the green in two from 215 yards and two-putted from 45 feet for birdie.
“I had an iron in my hand and you can’t really pass up an opportunity like that, plus at the time we needed a birdie, at least we thought,” Patterson said. “So I went ahead and played aggressively and it paid off.”
MTSU has reached NCAA Regionals in five of the past six years and reached the NCAA Championships in 2009, finishing 15th. It didn’t advance through the Conference USA tournament last year, when No. 1 player Patterson redshirted with an injury.
The Blue Raiders won multiple tournaments in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, but not only hadn’t won in the past two seasons, they hadn’t been in a final grouping in a final round.
“This one feels good because you kind of appreciate all the hard work that goes into it and the total team effort that it takes to pull out a win,” Patterson said.
• Team scores–1. Middle Tennessee State 303-290-291–884; 2. Kent State 305-287-294–886; 3. Iowa State 296-301-293–890; 4. ETSU 303-292-301–896; 5. East Carolina 303-290-304–897; 6. Louisville 302-301-296–899; 7. Lamar 298-305-300–903; 8. Coastal Carolina 295-307-303–905; 9. Duke 314-301-298–913; 10. North Carolina 311-312-310–933; 11. UNCW 311-309-317–937; 12. Northern Illinois 330-319-315–964.
• Top Individuals–T1. Corey Conners (Kent State) 75-69-72–216; T1. Andrew Dorn (CCU) 73-71-72–216; 3. Taylor Pendrith (Kent State) 76-71-70–217; 4. Rhys Pugh (ETSU) 73-70-75–218; T5. Scott Fernandez (Iowa State) 72-74-74–220; T5. Payne McLeod (UNCW) 70-74-76–220; T5. Robin Sciot-Siegrist (Louisville) 74-75-71–220; T8. Gustav Burenstam (Lamar) 73-76-72–221; T8. Antoine Le Saux (Louisville) 74-72-75–221; T8. Ruben Sondjaja (Iowa State) 70-77-74–221.
• Others for CCU–T26. Olle Widegren 74-77-78–229; T38. Ben Wheeler 74-76-82–232; T46. Roberto Ballesteros 74-84-77–235; T52. Peter Valasek 78-83-76–237.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.