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Pride shoots up national rankings

by Jay Allred

By STEVE WILLIAMS

 

Greensboro College was seeking a signature win this spring after an uneven fall slate that left the team out of the top 10 of the national rankings.

The Pride won a pair of fall events, but was left with a sour taste all winter after a final-round slide that saw a 16th place finish out of 18 teams in the NCAA Fall Preview.

That signature win came in mid-March after a final-round rally to capture the Jekyll Island Collegiate.

“It’s probably the biggest D-3 tournament of the regular season,” said Greensboro College coach Dirk Fennie. “The two tournaments we won in the fall were full fields with some good teams but it was nothing like this.”

No less than 15 of the top 25 teams in the national rankings gathered at two courses at the Georgia resort for the 29-team event.

Greensboro overcame having to count an 82 in the first round and a five-shot deficit heading into the final 18. The Pride’s 875 ended four shots clear of top-ranked Huntingdon, fourth-ranked Oglethorpe and ninth-ranked Methodist.

“To win this tournament is unbelievable,” Fennie said. “If you can finish top three at Jekyll, you can win the national championship.”

Greensboro was ranked 15th going into the event and climbed to seventh after all the factors were put into the computer by Golfstat.

“The way we performed in the final round gives us a lot of confidence,” Fennie said.

Grant Powell, a freshman from Northwest Guilford, led the Pride charge with a 69 after opening with a pair of 72s.

Powell was the only player in the lineup whose score counted all three rounds. Scott Campbell and Levi Grogan both opened with 70s, Ryan Fitzgerald improved by 13 shots with a second-round 72 and Luke Grogan bounced back from an opening 82 to post scores of 74 and 73.

It’s a young lineup with Powell joined by fellow freshmen Campbell of Kernersville and Fitzgerald of Waxhaw and the Grogans, junior twins from Canton.

Fennie isn’t counting on his team to get an invite to the nationals just yet.

“D-3 is a little weird because they don’t have regionals and there are not that many at-large bids,” he said.

An automatic bid will go to the winner of the USA South Conference Tournament, but the league is incredibly strong. Huntingdon, Methodist and sixth-ranked LeGrange are all rivals for Greensboro.

“In all my years of coaching I’ve never seen a conference with four teams in the top 10,” Fennie said. “That’s the type of competition we have.”

The USA South title will be settled April 13-15 at LaGrange, Ga., while the nationals are set for Mission Inn Resort in Florida on May 16-19.

 

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