Golf Competes at A-10 Championship

Will Jones –  Every young golfer dreams of it: walking up the 18th fairway in the final pairing of the final round, the crowd cheering as you tip your cap, ball on the green with a birdie putt to win the championship. You read the break, line it up, and drain it center-cut; the title is yours by a stroke and the crowd goes wild. You can hear the TV announcer in your head, Jim Nantz perhaps, or Roger Maltbie, proudly announcing your name as the champion to the millions of viewers at home.

For Sophomore Jack Lang, the title-clinching putt was a little less dramatic, but just as satisfying. He stood over a 4-foot par putt on the 9th green (he started the round on hole 10), knocked it home, turned to his coach and asked, “Did I do it?” His teammates congratulated him as he walked off the green to the clubhouse, still unaware that he had just won the Atlantic 10 Conference Golf Championship. When the final scores were finally posted, Lang breathed a sigh of relief; he had just won by 3 strokes.

This had been the plan all along. Jack went into the final round in a tie for 2nd place, one shot back from the lead. However, unlike the other leaders in the final round, Jack started on the 10th hole, away from the other top competitors. “I just went into the round and decided I wasn’t going to pay attention to the leaderboard at all and was just going to try to hit every golf shot the best I could and see where I was when I finished,” Jack told me in an interview when he got back on campus, “If I could just focus on the stuff I could control, then I would be fine and hopefully happy with where I ended up.”

The key to Lang’s success in the final round, in which he shot a day’s best 68 (-4), was the stretch of holes 11-15 (actually 2-6), where he drained 4 birdies to clinch the day. After missing a short birdie putt on the 10th hole, Jack hit  the green on the Par 5 2nd in two shots, following with a phenomenal 2-putt from 50 feet for a birdie. “Converting on that two-putt on 2 really sort of helped me settle back in,” Lang said. His tee shot on the next hole, a par 3, settled 6 feet from the hole, and he drained the ensuing putt. After a tough 70-foot 3-putt on the par 4 4th for bogey, Lang bounced back with consecutive birdies on the 5th and 6th holes to seal the deal.

Recovery was a main theme for the team on the weekend, who finished in 5th place, a large improvement over their finish from last year. After a solid first round, which saw under-par performances from Lang, fellow sophomore Hoke Carlton, who paced the ‘Cats at -4, and freshman Michael Freeman, the team struggled on the second round. While Lang shot 4-under-par en route to his top finish, teammates Carlton and Freeman posted rounds of +5 and +4 respectively to drop back to over-par for the tournament. However, the boys bounced back in the final round, with Carlton firing a -3 round to finish just outside of the top 10 and Freeman shooting +1 to round out the top 20. Senior Andy Simmons rounded out the team scoring with a +18 total for the tourney.

According to Lang, the team was a little far back of where they wanted to be going into Saturday, but they did the best they could on the last day to earn 5th. However, the team is optimistic about its outlook going into next year. “We have a young team with a lot of talent,” Lang said, “Between Hoke, Michael, and Nate Tenpas, who was a phenomenal junior golfer and is just coming back from injury, and a new freshman coming in next year, we’re hoping to nab an at-large bid to Regionals next year.” As for Jack Lang, he will be competing in the NCAA Regional Championships in two weeks. Tune into Golf Channel at 12 pm on Thursday to see where he will be competing for a spot at nationals.