ALLENDALE, Mich. — Top-ranked Barry won a school-record seven tournaments — the most in NCAA Division II — during the 2013-14 season, but without one more at the national championship, none of those victories meant much of anything. As head coach Jimmy Stobs said, the Buccaneers needed to finish it off.
They did just that, defeating top-seeded Nova Southeastern 3.5-1.5 Friday afternoon at The Meadows at Grand Valley State to win its second consecutive national title.
This is just the 12th time in Division II history a team has won back-to-back crowns.
“They don’t give out rings for regular-season wins or having good seasons. They give out rings for national champions,” Stobs said on the 18th green following the trophy presentation. “We prepared at home for this moment before we got here and the guys stepped up big today.
“They proved they were the best team in the country by far. I’m so proud of these guys.”
Despite falling behind early in as many as four matches, the Buccaneers stayed the course and went on to close out the first three pairings.
Following a pair of bogeys at holes No. 3 and 4, Barry senior Scott Smyers trailed Nova Southeastern sophomore Hunter O’Mahony, who birdied both those holes, by four strokes. The three-time PING All-South Region honoree battled dropped birdies at the 14th and 15th to even up the match.
O’Mahony went on to bogey his final three holes, while Smyers ended his 3-over par 78 with three consecutive pars to earn Barry’s first victory.
Shortly thereafter, Jared Dalga, a senior and native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, came to the 17th hole with a three-stroke lead. A poor tee shot sent his ball toward the wooded hazard left of the green. Luckily, the ball kicked out and landed in the rough. Dalga saved par and closed out Nova Southeastern senior Mitch Farrer with another par at the 18th for a 1-under par 71.
“These national championships are tough,” Dalga said. “Fortunately, it wasn’t too far in the woods.”
With two victories already secure, Buccaneers junior Berry Jole found himself leading junior Oscar Lengden by one stroke in the right bunker off the 15th fairway.
The Rysuhout, Netherlands native managed to put the ball in the right rough beside the green and chipped to three feet. After saving par, he took his usual 2-iron off the 16th tee to ensure he found the fairway. Another iron and two putts later, Jole made his fourth consecutive par to maintain his lead.
Lengden parred the 15th and 16th to keep the pressure on, but a bogey at the 17th gave Jole a commanding two-stroke lead heaing to the 18th, where only 36 birdies were made all week.
Cool and comfortable as ever, Jole twirled his 3-iron and picked up his tee as the ball rolled up the right side of the fairway. Just minutes later, he sent his second shot soaring through the air, picked up his bag and started walking as the ball came down safely on the front half of the green. Two putts wrapped up a 1-over par 73, a two-stroke win and Barry’s third title in program history.
“I was not [at the national championship] last year, but I feel like my matches were necessary to win,” he said. “I had a two-shot lead on 18, which is always good. It helped me commit to the shot [into the green]. I didn’t pull back.”
Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year Mario Beltran and Nova Southeastern sophomore Santiago Gomez each carded 2-over par 74s for the only split of the day. The Sharks’ only win came from senior Ricardo Celia, who fired an even-par 71 to best top-ranked Adam Svensson by one stroke.
“It was nice to have an opportunity to win today. The guys fought hard, but we just didn’t have it [Friday],” Nova Southeastern head coach Ryan Jamison said. “Barry definitely outplayed us.
“Hopefully, we will be back here next year.”
The national title, which is the fourth in the past five years by a team from the SSC, meant plenty to each of the Buccaneers. For Dalga, though, ending his career was “amazing.”
“We all worked hard the whole year,” he said. “People barely win one [national title] and we just won two in a row. It is a pretty special day.”
It certainly was not easy, though. The Buccaneers earned the second seed after 54 holes of stroke play, defeated second-ranked Cal State Monterey Bay in the quarterfinals and fourth-ranked Chico State in the semifinals only to face Nova Southeastern on Friday.
The road could not have been tougher, and neither could the golf course — even if Barry did win it all the last time The Meadows hosted the tournament in 2007.
“I love the way the USGA sets up courses. The guys, when they got here were a little shocked by the rough, because we don’t play stuff like this,” Stobs said. “The pin placements were difficult. [The USGA] doesn’t give you anything.
“I like that. It really identifies the best players. You have to be disciplined and play away from the hole a lot, which a lot of young guys have a difficult time doing.”
This is the fifth time in seven years a team from the state of Florida took home the Division II crown and the 20th men’s golf national title for the SSC. It is also the 11th time an SSC team has finished second at the event.
And, as Stobs noted afterward in the clubhouse, the top seed in the medal-match play portion of the tournament has still never won the title.
With the best campaign in school history officially in the books, Barry will celebrate briefly before it starts chasing its third consecutive championship. South Carolina-Aiken, the last team to win two titles in a row, and Florida Southern are the only teams in Division II to three-peat.
Next year, only one win will satisfy the Buccaneers, but the target on their backs will be twice as big.