Prior to Monday, the last time Augusta State hoisted a tournament trophy was last June, and it was the NCAA national championship trophy after the Jaguars defeated Oklahoma State in the match play final.
The team's first title in their sixth event of the season wasn't likely entering the final round of the 10th annual General Hackler Championship, either. The Jags were tied for fourth and 14 strokes behind a talented Virginia team at the TPC of Myrtle Beach.
But the Jaguars fired a blistering 7-under-par 281 as a team in the final round - capped by senior Henrik Norlander's 35-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole - to capture their first title of the 2010-11 season by three strokes over the Cavaliers.
"We've had a good year, we just haven't won," said ASU coach Josh Gregory, whose team has finished in the top four in five of their six events. "We're in contention pretty much every event, but we needed a win. We hadn't won all year and the guys were getting a little frustrated with not winning."
Augusta State finished with a 14-over 878, while Virginia shot a 10-over 298 Monday for an 881 total. Host Coastal Carolina fell from contention with a 22-over 310 to finish sixth in the 17-team event at 40-over 904.
The eagle also capped a 5-under-par 67 for Norlander, which matched the fourth-lowest round in the tournament's 10-year history and gave him the individual title by four strokes over runner-up Amory Davis of Virginia at 6-under 210. Junior Patrick Reed also contributed a 67 for the Jags.
The title is the Swede's fourth collegiate victory and first this season. "I have been struggling quite a bit all year, so I came here with pretty much no expectations," Norlander said. "So that's sometimes pretty nice not having any expectations; just go out and play. If someone told me 67 this morning I would have taken it."
He has played at the TPC four straight years, and previously finished second and sixth. "It's my favorite course in college," Norlander said. "... This is the perfect mix I think. If you don't play well here, you're going to shoot a pretty high number, but you still have a chance. It's very fair, I think. I love this place."
Norlander played the final seven holes 4 under. He birdied the 311-yard, par-4 12th hole by driving the green and two-putting, holed a 40-foot putt from the fringe for birdie on the 15th, and eagled the 18th with a 4-iron from 205 yards to 35 feet. "I knew I had a little bit of a lead but I couldn't do anything else there," Norlander said. "I could have laid up, but I had 205 so I had to go for it."
Augusta State returned all five starters from the national championship team, but freshman Alex Wennstam of Sweden stepped in for Taylor Floyd to play in just his second collegiate tournament and contributed a 71 Monday. "You don't get those very much out of freshmen on a hard golf course like this," Gregory said. "We've got a very deep team."
This year marks the Jaguars' fifth consecutive appearance in the Hackler, and last year's third-place finish was their previous best. Monday's 281 came on fast greens and despite pin placements near the edges of greens.
"We've never played that great here, so to get here and win on this golf course in these conditions was pretty special," Gregory said. "... To shoot 7-under par on this course - it's one of the hardest courses you play all year - to that in these conditions and have two guys shoot 67 is pretty remarkable."
Virginia was seeking its third title in seven events this season. "I think we lost a few shots on the greens coming in," Davis said. "We've won twice so we know what it takes to win. ... It is pretty disappointing, but I'm sure we'll come back next week and get in the same position again."
Coastal Carolina entered the final round tied for second, 11 shots behind Virginia, but fell down the leaderboard as the day progressed with a top score of 76 posted by freshman Roberto Ballesteros, who tied for 43rd at 17-over 233.
Sophomore Sebastian Soderberg entered the final round tied for second individually but shot 81 to tie for 13th at 223, redshirt junior Tripp McAllister shot 80 to finish 30th at 228, junior Drew Ernst shot 77 to tie for 36th at 231, and junior Charlie Winegardner shot 77 to tie for 38th at 232. The rounds were the worst of the spring for McAllister and Soderberg, who recorded his fifth top-20 in seven starts.
"It's the first time they've been in contention really all year I think. I'm sure they got a little bit ahead of themselves looking at [scores on] Golfstat, and obviously our guys take a lot of pride in this event and wanted to do well. I'm sure they put a lot of pressure on themselves out there today. We got off to a rough start and finished rough as well."