OOLTEWAH, Tenn. — All 30 schools that competed in the NCAA Golf Championships had flags to hang outside the clubhouse at The Honors Course.
Augusta State had the smallest of the 30.
On Sunday, the smallest flag and the smallest school flew the highest.
Augusta State beat Oklahoma State, college golf’s version of the New York Yankees, 3-1-1 to win its first national championship. Golf is the only sport the Jaguars play at the Division I level, while the top-ranked Cowboys have won 10 national titles and have played in every NCAA golf finals ever held.
“This is the most incredible feeling,” Jaguars head coach Josh Gregory said. “To win a national championship is one thing, but to beat the most storied program in the history of college golf makes it even more special.”
Oklahoma State’s Kevin Tway missed a 4-foot putt for par on the first extra hole against Mitch Krywulycz giving the Jaguars the championship clinching point. Macon native Taylor Floyd was on the 17th green with a good chance to go 1-up when he and Gregory heard the cheers coming from a few hundred yards away at the green on No. 1. Gregory bear-hugged Floyd, and moments later the hundred or so Augusta State fans who made the trip began trickling across to No. 17. Floyd gladly halved his match with Trent Whitekiller just a few minutes after he evened it up with a clutch birdie putt on No. 16.
Henrik Norlander and Patrick Reed got the Jaguars’ first two points with dominant wins.
“I was pretty relieved it didn’t come down to me at the end,” said Floyd, who played the past two days with a stomach virus. “I just didn’t know what else I could give and didn’t want the national championship to be on the line while I’m not 100 percent. I feel a lot better now; a national championship is good medicine.”
Floyd’s performance under duress drew quite a bit of attention during the past two days. He nearly quit twice during Saturday’s play while battling the flu but stayed on the course and eventually got a win against Florida State. He felt better Sunday, but he was still sick enough that tournament officials moved his match to the final slot of the day instead of the scheduled second position. A pair of paramedics followed Floyd in a golf cart throughout the round.
“I just told him he didn’t have to (play),” Gregory said. “This is golf; it’s not life or death. I’ll never forget what he did (during the final two rounds). It’s the most courageous thing I’ve seen on a golf course.”
Floyd got off to a strong start for the third straight day when he birdied the first hole. He led 3-up through four holes, but Whitekiller got the match back to all square on No. 9. Whitekiller took the lead on No. 14, making it the first time he trailed on the first 17 holes all week. Floyd’s birdie at No. 16 with Gregory alongside evened the match. Floyd reached the par-5 17th hole in two shots and had an eagle putt from 30 feet awaiting him. Whitekiller had a 50-foot putt for birdie, and he was lining it up when Krywulycz clinched the win for the Jaguars.
“I think Taylor would have gone on to win,” Reed said. “It was that kind of day and that kind of round for him. We believed he could do it, and he went out there and played sick and had a chance to win.”