Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photo of Sam Clark on the fifth tee.
BALDWINSVILLE, N.Y. - - The tension increased as the third round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic/East Super Regional continued to move along, but the Wilmington University golf team earned a bid to the NCAA Division II National Tournament by finishing fourth overall, shooting a 306 to finish with a 905 at the Timber Banks Golf Club.
Needing to be one of the top five teams to advance, the Wildcats stumbled but didn't fall in finishing fourth overall and accomplishing their goal. The Wildcats shot a 310-289-306 for a 905 (+41) in the three-day, three-round Super Regional.
The 2016 National Tournament will be hosted in Denver, Colorado, starting on May 16. The NCAA Division II is in midst of another Spring Festival Season where a majority of the spring National Championships will be played in Denver. This is the fifth time in six years the Wildcats have advanced to the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
Junior Sam Clark paced the Wildcats on Wednesday, but it may have been his play down the stretch that sent the team to Denver. A shotgun start put Clark on hole three to begin the day, and after a tough up and down on his first hole of the day, Clark got some relief after another bad tee shot on hole four. His tee went into the green side bunker, but the junior didn't need to pull out his putter at all, sinking the bunker shot for the birdie (left). Another birdie on 13 brought Clark down to four over par but the junior bogeyed 15 to go back to five over.
With Le Moyne and Mercyhurst looming, Clark sank back-to-back birdies on his final two holes of the day (holes one and two, respectively) to give the Wildcats some breathing room. He finished his day with a team best 75 (+3), and in a tie for 37th overall for the tournament with an 83-73-75 for a 231 (+15).
Senior Andreas Lunding battled the back nine with three birdies, fighting uphill from a 51 (+5) front. He sank birdies on 11, 14, and 17, but bogeyed the 18th hole to finish with a 76 (+4) on the day. He was the second Wildcat on the leaderboard for the tournament, finishing in a tie for 14th overall with a 75-74-76 for a three-day score of 225 (+9).
Freshman Ryan Rucinski also fought back on the back nine, hitting three birdies of his own after making the turn with a 42 (+6). He birdied 11, 15, and sank a much needed birdie putt on 18 to aide the team against the charging Dolphins of Le Moyne. His 35 (-1) on the back nine allowed him to finish with a 77 (+5) for the day. He moved up six spots on the leaderboard on Wednesday, shooting an 85-71-77 for a three-day score of 233 (+17) to finish tied for 44th.
Sophomore Joey Russo started out red hot on the front nine, beginning the day with back-to-back birdies. After two pars on three and four, Russo birdied the par three fifth to go as low as three under. A double bogey on six slightly derailed the sophomore, but Russo bounced back with a birdie on seven. Russo made the turn with a 34 (-2), staying in contention for the individual championship.
Russo gave a shot back on 11 with a bogey, but it was a 10 (+5) on the 14th hole that ruined his chances. He bounced back with a birdie on 15, but ended the afternoon with three straight bogeys on 16, 17, and 18. He completed his round with a 78 (+6). He led the Wildcats on the leaderboard, shooting a 73-71-78 for a 222 (+6) to finish in a tie for sixth place overall.
Junior Miguel Siercke also shot a 78 (+6) on Wednesday, finishing the tournament with an even par back nine in the third round. After making the turn with 42 (+6), Siercke made par on six straight holes before shooting a bogey on 16. He bounced right back, however, sinking his lone birdie of the day on 17 before closing with a par on 18. He finished in a tie for 59th overall at the Super Regional, shooting a 79-78-78 for a 235 (+19).
St. Thomas Aquinas won the Atlantic/East Super Regional with a 301 on Wednesday, besting Southern New Hampshire by six strokes for the tournament. St. Thomas Aquinas finished with a three-round score of 897. The Spartans also had the individual champion as Chris Gentle shot a 77-64-72 for a 213 (-3) tournament. He beat Le Moyne's John Clare by two strokes.
The Spartans, the Penmen, Concordia and Le Moyne will join the Wildcats in Denver to compete in the NCAA Division II National Tournament.