TIFTON — Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College struggled in the middle rounds of last week’s NJCAA Division II national tournament at Plymouth, Ind.
The Stallions, who rose to sixth place after two days of competition, turned in a team score of 319 on May 23, their worst of the four rounds at Swan Lake Resort. But ABAC pushed forward the next day, improving by 20 shots and coming out of the tournament with a 10th place.
To finish as they did, said ABAC head coach Larry Byrnes, “It took a lot of courage.”
Adam Park and Will Bozeman led the way for the Stallions during the tournament. For finishing 12th overall, Park earned second team All-American from the NJCAA. Bozeman, who tied for 21st, was named honorable mention All-American.
For the team to stick in the top 10, though, required a big effort for a golfer who did not finish as high in the standings.
Matthew Cheek shot in the 80s in each of the first three rounds. On the last day, he broke through.
“It took Matthew to get a 79,” said Byrnes of the performance that secured 10th place. Cheek made par on the last three holes to keep his score in the 70s, after going +3 on the same holes a day earlier.
“I’m pleased with the progress,” Byrnes said of the season. He pointed out that ABAC finished ahead of several top-notch programs, including Texas-based Tyler Junior College.
Nationals were the end of the line for two ABAC players.
Both Park and Bozeman will be moving on after two years of golf in Tifton. Byrnes said he has a solid group returning and a strong recruiting class arriving. He said he will be relying on leadership by Tyler White with the new group.
White was 53rd in competition last week, which included a 73 in the fourth round, his best score of the tournament. He, along with Park, are part of what has become an important Canadian pipeline of talent to ABAC.
Byrnes said none of the newcomers are Canadian, but he already has a Class of 2020 commitment from America’s northern neighbor.
Hunter Dokey, who played at nationals, is another returnee, as is Thomas Lupien.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done,” he said.