Cal State golfers squander lead, settle for second

So near and yet so far.

The Cal State San Bernardino men’s golf team had hoped to capture the school’s first state championship in any sport. But the Coyotes squandered an eight-hole lead and lost a sudden-death playoff to CCAA rival Sonoma State at the Division II national championship at Loomis Trail Golf Club in Blaine, Wash.

The Coyotes, who came into the event ranked No. 5, started the day eight ahead of Barry (Fla.) and nine ahead of Sonoma State. The No. 6 Seawolves chipped away at that lead and finally drew even on the 18th hole of the day and 72nd of the tournament with the last group of the day on the course.

The Coyotes’ team total of 300 was their worst of the four days while the 291 by Sonoma State was the low round from any team any day.

Sonoma State’s Patrick Bauer and Cal State’s Gene Webster were in that last group. Bauer finished with a bogey at the 416-yard par-4 hole but Webster double-bogeyed.

Not only did that cost the Coyotes a team title, it cost the Arroyo Valley High School product medalist honors. He went all three rounds either in first or tied for first and was even par through three rounds but ended up tied for third with a 77 on the day and a 6-over 290 for the tournament.

Webster was trying to become the school’s first medalist at the event since Scott Householder in 1997 when the event was held in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Micah Burke, the lone senior in the Coyotes quartet, placed ninth at 9-over 293 after a 2-over 73 final round. Junior Joe Alldis tied for 14th with an 11-over 295 that included a final-round 75.

Junior Thomas Chu rounded out play with a 77 for a 304 while Kenny Pigman, normally the team’s No. 2 player, tallied a 75 for a four-day total of 306.

The Coyotes’ second-place finish was the team’s best effort in 13 trips to the national championship tournament going back to 1986 when the program was in Division III. The Coyotes finished third in 1988, 1997 and 1998, fourth in 1987 and 1990 and fifth in 1991 giving the program seven top five finishes.

It was a great day for the CCAA, which had its two top golf teams finish 1-2 in the national tournament. It was the first D-2 national title for a CCAA golf team in 35 years dating back to 1974 when Cal State Northridge won the tournament. It was the first win by a California school since UC Davis won it in 1979.

Medalist honors were also decided on an extra hole as Kelbi Lee of Ferris State defeated Gavin Smith of Indiana-Pennsylvania on the first hole. Both finished at 5-over 289 for the tournament.

The golf team is the second team this school year to narrowly miss bringing home the school’s first national title. In the fall the women’s volleyball team lost in the championship match to Concordia-St. Paul.