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Filed under Sports

Men’s golf wins NCAA title

WELDON SPRINGS, MO – The men’s golf team won the NCAA Division III national golf championship Thursday.

In claiming the school’s first-ever NCAA title and sixth national championship overall, the Blugold men finished one stroke ahead of Guilford College, North Carolina and two strokes ahead of Methodist College, North Carolina which had won nine of the previous 11 championships.

The Blugolds led the first two rounds of the 72-hole tournament before falling one stroke behind Guilford after three rounds.

All five Blugold participants finished among the top 27 in the individual standings. There were a total of 23 teams and 120 golfers who participated in the four-day tournament at the Persimmon Woods Golf Course near St. Louis.

Junior Ryan Quinn (Galesville/G-E-T) tied for fourth in the individual standings with a three-over par 287. He was the national runner-up last year and had been in second place heading into Thursday’s final round. Sophomore Andy Smith (Middleton) and senior Ryan Kuhl (Lake Mills) had the team’s best final rounds with an even par 71 and a 72, respectively. Kuhl placed 12th overall with an eight-over par 292 while Smith tied for 20th with a 298. Senior Todd Samarzia (Stillwater, MN) shot a final round 74 and tied for 14th with a 10-over par 294. Senior Brian Thompson (Elk River, MN) had a 78 on his final 18 holes and tied for 27th with a 300.

Eau Claire becomes only the fourth school outside of California or North Carolina to win an NCAA Division III golf title in the 27-year history of the championship. The Blugolds’ previous best finish was a fourth in 1999. Last year, they placed fifth, eight strokes behind Greensboro, North Carolina, in a rain-shortened championship. This was the fourth consecutive year the Blugolds have been in the national championship.

The only other UW-Eau Claire athletic teams to win a national championship, all NAIA titles, were men’s ice hockey in 1984, women’s cross country in 1984 and women’s swimming in 1983, 1987 and 1988. The closest any Blugold teams have come to an NCAA title previously were seconds by the 2000 men’s basketball team and the 1997 women’s basketball team.

Todd Oehrlein is in his fourth season as head coach following in the footsteps of Frank Wrigglesworth who built the Blugold program into national contender. In 22 seasons, the octogenerian who still assists Oehrlein with the program, won eight Wisconsin State University Conference (now the WIAC) championships with four runner-up finishes and one third but nothing worse than fourth in the nine-team league. From 1976 through 1993, the Blugolds won nine NAIA District 14 titles which advanced them to the 32-team NAIA National Championship. There, they had five top 14 finishes including a 10th in 1985. As an NCAA affiliate, the Blugolds have qualified five times with a 13th in 1994 and 12th in 1998 before their three consecutive top five places.

For complete results, go to Golfstat.com.

For an earlier Spectator story on the championships, click here.

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