JONESBORO, Ark. (astateredwolves.com) – The Arkansas State men's golf team collected its sixth all-time Red Wolves Intercollegiate title on Tuesday, recording a final-round 282 at the RidgePointe Country Club to finish with a season-best 862 total that placed them atop the 21-team field.
A-State won its 18th annual home event for the first time since 2002 and claimed its first championship at any tournament since winning the First Tee/UALR Collegiate Classic during the 2004-05 season. The Red Wolves entered today's final round just two strokes ahead of runner-up Belmont, but separated themselves by posting their best single-round score since their first tournament of the 2010-11 campaign.
A-State began play by shooting a 285 that gave it an 11-stroke lead over Belmont, but the Bruins closed the gap by recording a 286 to the Red Wolves' 295 in the second round. However, A-State's strong final round propelled the team to its best three-round score since the 2010-11 season and give it a 12-stroke margin of victory over the Bruins.
"This was an outstanding team performance, and I couldn't be happier for our guys," said A-State head coach Steve Johnson. "They've been working extremely hard for a long time and have been continuing to improve, so this is something that has been coming. They didn't get ahead of themselves, which is something that has been holding us back this year. The focus has been on getting them to trust themselves, and they did that today."
The Red Wolves were led by four players finishing among the top-15 individuals, including Easton Key, Chance Holden, Sean Brock and Matthew Loiacano. Key and Holden both placed a team-best tied for third place, while Brock and Loiacano ended the tournament tied for ninth and 13th, respectively.
Key picked up his best finish of the year and was among the top-10 performers for the fourth time this season after posting a combined 215 (70-71-74). Holden recorded a 72-74-69 to also claim his best finish this season, which was his third top-10 performance as well.
Like Key and Holden, Brock had his best finish this year. He shot a 219 (72-73-74) for his best three-round score this season. His score included a first-round 72 that was his best total for a single round.
Loiacano led A-State on the final day, carding a 65 that was the lowest single-round score by an A-State player this season and moved him up 41 spots in the standings. He was among the four A-State players to collect a season-best finish, and his total 220 (78-77-65) tied his lowest three-round score of the year.
"This was a total team effort, but Matthew really came through for us this afternoon with a tremendous golf score," said Johnson.
Also competing for the Red Wolves, Seth Garner finished tied for 51st place with a 230 (71-78-81). A-State had an additional five players competing in the tournament as well to make up a second squad for the Red Wolves. The team of Alex Hewitt, Christian Helmbold, Drake Merritt, Brayden Brown and Landon Hearnes finished 18th place with a 926 team score (324-304-298).
A-State returns to action April 21-23 at the Sun Belt Conference Championships in Saucier, Miss.
ARKANSAS STATE RESULTS
PLACE, NAME (RD 1-RD 2--TOTAL)
1, Arkansas State (A) (285-295-282--862)
T3, Easton Key (70-71-74--215)
T3, Chance Holden (72-74-69--215)
T9, Sean Brock (72-73-74--219)
T13, Matthew Loiacano (78-77-65--220) - moved up from tied for 54th
T51, Seth Garner (71-78-81--230)