Sept. 1, 2009
RIVERSIDE, Iowa - The Florida State men's golf team rallied from four strokes down entering the final round and stormed to an eight stroke victory over Iowa to claim the championship of the Inaugural GolfWeek Conference Challenge at the Blue Top Ridge Club Golf Club. The Seminoles shot the second best team round of the three-round event (281) in the final round to earn the victory in the season opening tournament for men's collegiate golf.
Junior Drew Kittleson also staged a rally of his own as he shot a third-round best four-under par 68 over the final 18 holes to finish as the co-champion in the individual standings. He began the final round in a tie for second place and two strokes behind Iowa's Brad Hopfinger in the race for individual medalist honors. Kittleson shot a 68 in the final round while Hopfinger shot a 70 to draw the two players into a tie. Kittleson birdied four of his final seven holes to draw even at the end with Hopfinger.
The team championship was the first of the season and fifth in the last three seasons for the Seminoles under head coach Trey Jones. The Seminoles won the Inverness Intercollegiate, the Seminole Intercollegiate and the ACC Championship in 2008 and the Florida State Spring Break Invitational in 2009. The individual championship was the first of Kittleson's 22-match Seminole career.
"I told the team at breakfast this morning that winning would take a team effort and that each guy would have to complete for all 18 holes if were going to have a chance to win," said Jones. "We got that from our four counting scores."
The tournament, which featured 15 teams from 15 different conferences, saw Florida State improve its position in the team standings in both of the final two rounds. The Seminoles were in third place after the first round, in second place after the second round and won the event in the third round. Kittleson (Scottsdale, Az.) steadily moved himself up the individual rankings as he was in a tie for seventh after one round, a tie for second after the second round and tied for the lead following the final 18 holes. Kittleson finished with a career-best tournament score of 207 and was a career-best minus nine under par for the tournament.
In addition to Kittleson's tied for first place finish, senior Seath Lauer (Huntington, Ind.) and freshman Doug Letson (Tampa, Fla.) finished tied for ninth in the individual standings. The three finishes for Kittleson, Lauer and Letson allowed the Seminoles to complete the event as the only team with three players in the top 10 of the individual standings.
Kittleson began his charge with seven holes remaining in the final round. As he stepped onto the tee box at 12, he trailed Hopfinger by one stroke. Kittleson birdied holes 12, 13, 14 and 17 to finish at three under over the final seven holes and with a four under par 68 for the round. Hopfinger, meanwhile, birdied holes 15 and 17 to finish at two under for the final seven holes and with a two under par 70 for the round.
In 54 holes played during the tournament, Kittleson played only three holes over par and was above par for a cumulative total of five holes. Over his final 41 holes, Kittleson was an amazing 10 strokes under par with 12 birdies and only one hole over par (a bogey on the par four 15th hole in the third round). Kittleson did not card a single hole worse than bogey on any of his 54 holes.
"Drew winning his first collegiate tournament is big for him and the team," said Jones. "He was in a battle with a local player and overcame a deficit to get a win."
Lauer finished well with an even par 72 in the third round to complete the event with a one-under score of 215. His finish of tied for ninth marked his fourth career top-10 finish and first since finishing tied for ninth in the Spring 2008 Seminole Intercollegiate. Lauer finished with a flurry of birdies - he was under par over three of the final five holes to finish with an even par 72. He was minus two under par over the final two rounds of the event.
"I challenged Seath on the 14th tee and really showed his talent and competitive spirit," said Jones. "He was not having things go his way through 13 holes, regrouped and played like a man on the way in and birdied three of his final five holes and narrowly missing birdies on the other two. Turning around a round is harder than shooting a low number and it takes fortitude to refuse to lose."
Letson finished his first collegiate tournament with a two-under par score of 70. He finished with a one-under par scored of 215 and two scores at par or better as he began the event with an even par 72.
Sophomore Wesley Graham (Port Orange, Fla.) played his best round of golf in the third round as he finished with a one-under par score of 70. He finished in a tied for 26th place with a score of 220. Graham was followed by freshman Michael Hebert who finished tied for 41st place with a score of 224.
"Wesley continues to improve. He will need to build on this experience if he is going to take the next step," said Jones. He really played well today. He had one mistake on 18 but other than that he was really competitive."
Florida State plays in its next event at the Olympia Fields Invitational at the Olympia Fields Golf Club Sept. 18-20.
Inaugural GolfWeek Conference Challenge/Par 72/Final FSU Results Blue Top Ridge Golf Course/Riverside, Iowa/August 30-Sept. 1, 2009 1/15. Florida State 287 285 281 853 T1. Drew Kittleson 70 69 68 207 T9. Seath Lauer 73 70 72 215 T9. Doug Letson 72 73 70 215 T26. Wesley Graham 76 73 71 220 T41. Michael Hebert 72 74 76 224
Inaugural GolfWeek Conference Challenge/Par 72/Final Team Results Blue Top Ridge Golf Course/Riverside, Iowa/August 30-Sept. 1, 2009 1. Florida State 853 T8. Xavier 881 2. Iowa 861 10. Illinois State 890 3. Coastal Carolina 866 T11. Texas Arlington 894 4. Cal 869 T11. Georgia Southern 894 5. Baylor 870 13. New Mexico State 897 6. M. Tennessee St. 875 14. South Florida 903 7. Vanderbilt 876 15. Memphis 911 T8. VCU 881