Muscle Shoals, AL (ASU) - Led by all-conference selection Lloyd du Preez, the Arkansas State men's golf team turned in its best performance of the Sun Belt Conference Championships on Wednesday with a final-round 290 that ran its combined score to 891 and helped it climb to sixth place in the three-day tournament's final standings.
ASU, which shot a combined 891 for all three rounds, had its best showing at the Sun Belt Conference Championships since 2006 when it collected a sixth-place finish as well. du Preez, who carded a team-best 67 to lead ASU in the final round, was named All-Sun Belt Conference for the second straight year at the conclusion of the tournament.
du Preez ended the first round tied for 27th place with a 76, but fell into a tie for 51st after posting a second-round 84. However, he responded with the best round of the tournament among all ASU players on Wednesday to move up to a 32nd-place tie. His final-round 67 matched his lowest score this season and the second lowest of his career.
"Obviously, I am very proud of Lloyd," said ASU head coach Steve Johnson. "Usually when you have a very tough round like he had in the second, you're either going to fold up or you're going to get back up. I was happy to see him get back up, but he is a great player and that is what great players do."
The Red Wolves' 891 total was their fourth lowest score of the season for a three-round tournament. A-State ended Monday's first round in eighth place with a 303, but climbed to seventh place Tuesday with a second-round 298 and jumped one more place in the standings today by cutting 13 strokes off its first-round total.
"We came out strong today," said Johnson. "I thought we played pretty solid yesterday, especially with Lloyd not playing well, and that was a good sign. Lloyd led this team to some extent through parts of the year, so I think it gave our players some confidence heading into today's round that they could perform well even when he wasn't playing his best."
Kell Shenep picked up his fifth top-25 finish of the season, ending the tournament tied for 24th place with a combined 224 to lead the Red Wolves. Shenep, who recorded a 75 for each of the first two rounds, shot a 74 to end the tournament with his best round.
Wessel Zwiegers narrowly missed finishing among the top 25 leaders as well, shooting a combined 225 that placed him tied for 26th. The freshman standout claimed his third best finish of the season after shooting a 76-77-72.
Chris Pledger had his second-best finish of the year, completing the tournament tied for 29th place with a 226 (76-74-76). After shooting a 79 and 77 for the first and second rounds, respectively, Tyler Thompson posted his lowest round with a 73 for the final 18 holes. He moved from a 45th-place tie at the conclusion of the first round to tied for 39th place in the final standings.
ASU finished six strokes behind fifth-place North Texas, while South Alabama led the 12-team field with an 872. Rounding out the top three finishers, Middle Tennessee took second place with an 878 and New Orleans third with an 879.
ASU ended its season with five top-10 and three top-five finishes, including a season-best second-place finish at the Jackrabbit Invitational. The Red Wolves placed at least one player on the All-Sun Belt Conference team for the second consecutive year and had four players that finished among the top 14 individuals in at least one tournament.
"This team is on the rise," said Johnson. "It's just been a very inconsistent year, but we'll make some adjustments for next season and this team has done some really good things as well. They shot one of the best three-round scores in school history, I think we finished 5-4 against the Southeastern Conference and beat the No. 3 ranked team in the country, and I think that will be a real positive heading into next year."
Place, Name (RD 1-RD 2-RD 3--TOTAL)
6, Arkansas State (303-298-290--891)
T24, Kell Shenep (75-75-74--224)
T26, Wessel Zwiegers (76-72-77--225)
T29, Chris Pledger (76-74-76--226)
T32, Lloyd du Preez (76-84-67--227)