Columbus State's golf team slipped to a third-place finish Tuesday in the 36-hole Aflac-Cougar Invitational at Columbus Country Club.
Perennial foe South Carolina-Aiken raced from eight strokes behind to beat CSU by five strokes, with the Cougars’ Peach Belt Conference rival recording a 7-under par 277 on the second day of competition.
Aiken's 569 total bettered second-place Florida Southern College's 572, with CSU's 574 placing third in the 17-team event.
Coach Michael Carlisle said his Aiken team of two sophomores, two juniors and one senior played “extremely well” when it counted, after a lackluster performance on the opening 18.
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“It was a real team effort,” he said. “They rebounded well. I'm really proud of them for doing that.”
It was the team's second win of the four fall tournaments entered, with one remaining before shutting down for the winter.
Florida Southern's Jude Eustaquio was the wire-to-wire medalist, following the first day's 3-under 68 with a 67 on Tuesday. Aiken's Roberto Diaz and Lynn University's Marcus Williams tied for second at 4 under, with the CSU freshman Steven Paine fourth at 2 under.
CSU coach Mark Immelman said he was “a little disappointed” that his team was unable to hold onto the two-stroke lead it carried into the tournament's second day.
“But we're going in the right direction,” he said. “We put ourselves in position to win; we just didn't finish it off today. I'm buoyed for the future, however.”
The lesson learned is that there can be “no resting on one's laurels. You've got to bring your 'A' game every week,'' Immelman said.
In addition to the heartening play of the five-member team fielded for this event, Immelman said he's excited by the play of true freshman Michael Lee, a 2008 Columbus High graduate who recorded rounds of 72-74 in his first tournament for CSU.
“He is one more talented golfer who is going to have a long career,” Immelman said. “He's going to be a very good player.”
The fantastic field, an excellent golf course and wonderful volunteers allowed CSU to put on “a great show” for the Division II golf teams, Immelman said.
The CSU golfers said the course played tough, but fair, on the second day of the tournament, with all rating the venue as an excellent test.
JP van der Walt, who joined Paine with the low team score of 70 on Tuesday, said he hit the ball much better, hit it into the right spots and couldn't have asked for a better course to play. Unusually poor putting kept him from scoring up to the potential his ball-striking should have afforded, he said.
Andrew Georgiou appeared headed for a great second round until derailed by a double-bogey on the short par-4 12th.
“I let it get to me a little bit and I let it slide,” the three-time All-American said after posting a 3-over 74. “I didn't hit that many bad shots and I don't feel like I played badly. I just couldn't get the ball in the hole. I'm very disappointed.”
Paine said his 1-under 70 could have been better, with back-nine bogeys on holes 10, 12 and 14 that could have been avoided.
Michael Hicks, who followed an opening 73 with a 76 on Tuesday, said his scoring woes are directly attributable to poor putting, with 31 putts on Monday followed by 32 or 33 putts on Tuesday.
But Georgiou said the team has to get past the inability to hold onto its opening day lead in this tournament and realize that its performance holds good promise for the future.
“These are good steps to build on,” he said of CSU's 4th-place finish in Blaine, Wash., a week ago among Division II's top 20 teams, and the 3rd-place spot in the Aflac/Cougar Invitational.