The Walters State Senators golf team made history Friday afternoon, capturing the program’s first-ever golf national championship.
Walters State, playing with five sophomores, shot a final round 308 (20-over par) to finish the four-day tournament at 1189 (37-over par), putting them 11 shots clear of second place finishing Mesa (Ariz.). The tournament was held in Plymouth, Ind.
Two Senators made both the All-Tournament Team and All-American First Team. A third player earned Honorable Mention All-American honors.
Brad Hawkins led Walters State with a four-day score of six-over par 294 (78-69-73-74) to finish sixth overall and claim his spot on the All-American and All-Tournament Teams.
Cody Johnson capped his tremendous four-day effort with a final round 75 to shoot nine-over par 297 (75-78-69-75) to end up in eighth place and also on both the All-American and All-Tournament teams.
Andrew Hall finished in 20th place at 14-over par 302 (74-75-74-79) and earned honorable mention honors.
Will Wright, who’s first round score of 72 helped put the Senators in front for a wire-to-wire win, finished with a total of 17-over par 305 (72-81-72-80) to end the event tied for 28th position.
Ryne Thompson carded a final round score of 86 and finished the event in 57th place with a score of 314 (76-74-78-86).
Walters State golf coach Bill Gardner, who had coached an individual national champion in Ryan Cabbage back in 1995, finally got to put his hands on the national championship trophy for the team, becoming the second coach at the college to guide his team to a national title. Ken Campbell coached the baseball team to a national championship in 2006.
Gardner, who has also coached the men’s basketball and baseball programs during his tenure at Walters State, was named the NJCAA National Coach of the Year after the tournament’s conclusion.
Mississippi Gulf Coast finished third in the team race at 1214, followed by Black Hawk (Ill.) in fourth at 1218 and Owens (Ohio) in fifth at 1219. Tyler (Tex.) was sixth at 1224, followed by Lackwanna (Pa.) in seventh at 1226, Southeast Nebraska in eighth at 1228, Grad Rapids (Mich.) in ninth at 1231 and Parkland (Ill.) in 10th at 1233.