After an up and down season battling illness and the injury bug, the Odessa College golf team was finally healthy at the right time and ended its season on top.
The Wranglers battled through four days of wind and rain to earn the NJCAA national championship on Friday at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
Odessa College entered the final day of the four-round event one shot behind Indian Hills Community College, but an even-par back nine was good enough to give the Wranglers a four-shot victory over the Warriors. Odessa College closed with a final round 293, bringing the team total to 14-over 1,166.
"All week, they set the tone," said head coach Paul Chavez, who claimed his third championship with the program. "They were here to win. They all took the leadership role and played great all week. I can't say enough how proud I am of them."
The Wranglers had three players finish in the top four led by Adam Blomme's runner-up finish. Blomme's final round 71 paced the Wranglers on Friday as he finished the tournament at 1-over par 289, four shots behind the individual medalist Ricky Sanders of Indian Hills.
Van Thomas was right behind Blomme in third place. Thomas shot even par Friday and finished at 2-over par 290.
Dustin Lewis tied for fourth place, closing with a 75 to finish at 3-over par 291.
Lewis played in the final pairing and it was his putt on the 18th green that sealed the championship for the Wranglers.
The sophomore said he knew how well his teammates were playing and that he had a couple shots to work with on the final hole.
"We fed off the pressure," said Lewis, who will play for St. Edward's University in Austin next year. "Parker Beaty kept me updated on the score. I like the pressure. I had a rough start and was down early, but my teammates were playing well."
Heading into the final nine holes, the Wranglers trailed the Warriors by a few strokes, but Lewis, Thomas, Blomme and Augustin Hole all shot even par, while Indian Hills had to count 11 bogeys and shot 8-over par during that same stretch.
"It was brutal," Chavez said of the playing conditions on the final day. "There's a wind chill of 40 (degrees) and a light drizzle. It just pushed them harder. The four sophomores led the way."
Hole was the opening-round leader after a 3-under 69 and finished in 15th place at 10-over 298.
Chris Finnie slid down the board with a final round 85 to place tied for 55th at 23-over 311, but the freshman from Scotland fired a couple of important rounds earlier in the tournament to save the Wranglers some important strokes when one of the sophomores had an off day.
The championship breaks a 12-year drought for the Wranglers program, which hadn't brought home the NJCAA's top prize since going back to back in 2004 and 2005. It was also the ninth championship in team history.
"It just proves that we have a great program and solidifies that we're a premier golf program," Chavez said.
Article by Joshua Perry OA