KIAWAH ISLAND – What was shaping up to be an epic War by the Shore between enemy combatants Newberry and Clayton State turned into a one-sided blitzkrieg on Tuesday afternoon as the 12th-ranked Wolves ran away from the field at The Ocean Course to win their second tournament of the season.
The course Golf Digest twice named America’s toughest, the place responsible for the Ryder Cup’s resurgence as an entertainment spectacle that became a field of dreams for the Americans and the inducement of nightmares for Bernhard Langer, was no match for individual medalist Spencer Skiff and his Newberry teammates as the Wolves scorched the field.
Skiff was nearly unstoppable in Tuesday’s final round despite the high winds blowing off the Atlantic that gave other golfers fits. The Aiken native fired a tournament-record 65, the best round of this year’s edition by two strokes and an eye-popping seven strokes under par, on the notoriously unforgiving course. His total came within two shots of equaling The Ocean Course’s all-time record.
“Today was pretty special for me,” Skiff remarked. “I had kind of a rocky start but was able to bounce back really well. My game felt really good the whole day. It was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course in a tournament.
“To play a round like that in the conditions we played today is something I will definitely remember for a long time.”
The nation’s sixth-ranked Division II golfer entering the tournament, Skiff had a round many professional golfers could only dream of. He bogeyed just one hole, the par-five second, before immediately rebounding with a birdie and finishing the front nine two under.
But the junior saved his best for last. Skiff birdied five consecutive holes on the back nine and finished the rest at par for a 31 after the turn and a seven-under 65 on the day, completing a comeback from 15th position after the first round and fifth following the second. He won the tournament by four strokes over Emmanuel’s Andrew Smith to secure his second individual title of the season. He shot an opening-round 74 and fired a three-under 69 in the second well to finish the tournament at eight under.
His round was Newberry’s lowest since Chandler Gruenemeier shot an eight-under 64 at the Carolina Sands Intercollegiate on April 3, 2011.
Bolstered by Skiff’s performance, Newberry cruised to a victory by 15 strokes over second-place Clayton State. The Wolves entered the final round just two strokes up on the Lakers but shot a four-over 292, one of just two third-round scores below 301 in the 16-team field, while Clayton State needed 305 strokes to complete its round.
The Wolves finished at nine over for the event, shooting a tournament-low even par in the second round.
“What a great way to start our spring season,” said head coach Howard Vroon. “I want to congratulate this team. They have worked hard to get where they are and they are a very impressive group.
“I especially want to congratulate Spencer. His 65 today was one of the best rounds I have ever seen, and that anyone at The Ocean Course has ever seen. He has become an outstanding player.”
Carlos Leandro was an all-tournament performer for the first time this season, finishing fourth at one over. He bookended the event with 74’s sandwiched around a three-under 69 in the second round. Sitting in fifth after 36 holes, Leandro leapfrogged Mars Hill’s Adam Lumley as the second-round leader tumbled to fifth with an eight-over 80 through the final 18.
Evan DeGrazia’s nine-over 225 placed him in a four-way tie for 16th. Harry Bolton finished tied for 42nd in the 81-player field at 16 over. Luke Atack was five strokes back of Bolton, while Ben Thompson, playing as an individual, finished tied for 28th at 13 over.
South Atlantic Conference foe Lenoir-Rhyne finished third, 25 shots off the pace and 10 behind runner-up Clayton State. Nineteenth-ranked USC Aiken landed fourth one stroke back of the Bears, while No. 7 Missouri-St. Louis, which led the Wolves and Lakers by one stroke after the first round, finished fifth at 37 over.
“We are so thankful for the folks at The Ocean Course and Kiawah Island Resort for allowing us to host this event at such a remarkable venue,” Vroon added. “Every year we leave here with awesome memories. This year is no different, but it is even sweeter to be coming back to Newberry with the championship trophy.”
The Wolves return to action next Monday and Tuesday at the Richard Rendleman Invitational. The event is hosted by Catawba at the Country Club of Salisbury, the home of the 2017 South Atlantic Conference Men’s Golf Championship.
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