THE JAGUARS OF AUGUSTA STATE have done it again, winning the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship by dusting off collegiate golf titans Oklahoma State and Georgia in the semifinals and finals this past weekend. The school of about 6,000 students is the first college to repeat as men’s golf champions since the University of Houston won consecutive titles in the mid 1980s.
The Jaguars compete against Division II schools in most sports. It’s an athletic program that has more women’s teams than men’s. But in golf little Augusta State has proven they can play with the big boys. Case in point: the vaunted Cowboys of Oklahoma State, the golf powerhouse in Stillwater, Oklahoma, that hosted this year’s NCAA finals. The Jags beat the Cowboys in the semis in front of a large Oklahoma State gallery. Then they whipped in-state rival Georgia in the finals.
The less-heralded Augusta State players were not intimidated. They stuck together. They found a way to win.
“Match play rewards the team that plays best under pressure,” Jaguars senior Mitchell Krywulycz said at Golfweek.com. “It doesn’t necessarily reward the best team, but every match is under the pump, all the time, every hole.”
Coach Josh Gregory, who left North Carolina State in 2002 to take the head job at Augusta State, said that winning doesn’t depend on big budgets, private planes and the number of scholarships. “If you can find a way to get players that believe,” Gregory said, “that’s all that counts.”
The Jaguars fairy-tale run is likely over. Gregory is leaving to take over as men’s golf coach at his alma mater, Southern Methodist University. Augusta State’s five best players are also leaving the Cinderella team—four of them seniors and one underclassman, Patrick Reed, who will turn pro.
A first-team All-American, Reed said it was sad they’ll now all go in different directions. But, in an important sense, he and his teammates will always be together as the Augusta State Jaguars go down in golf history.
−The Armchair Golfer