USC Beaufort

Sand Sharks pocket another tournament title

George Thacker occupied a spot on the Wilmington Island Club driving range Tuesday, staying loose while awaiting word of a possible playoff.

The USC Beaufort golfer was searching for his second individual victory in three years at the SeeMore NAIA Intercollegiate. But he soon learned from a teammate that a playoff would not be necessary, that a low number had been posted by someone who finished on a faraway part of the course.

Estaban Aristizabal of St. Thomas (Fla.) shot a final-round 69 to finish with a tournament-best score of 2-under-par 211. Thacker missed medalist honors by a stroke, but that news was the lone disappointment of the day for the Sand Sharks, who won their third consecutive tournament by shooting 10-over par during the three-round event. Reinhardt University of Waleska, Ga., finished second, 10 shots back.

The Sand Sharks have won three of their four tournaments during the fall. The only miss was a second-place finish at Kiawah Island in September.

"You can't do much better," Thacker said of the Sand Sharks' recent success. "We've got one more we'd like to win. Hopefully we'll move up the rankings a bit and keep moving up."

USCB will close its fall season Nov. 1-2 in Lakeland, Fla., a major tournament for Sun Conference teams. The nine-team field Tuesday in Savannah featured many of the teams USCB will face there. The major serves as a chance to boost a school's profile for a bid to the NAIA National Championship during the spring. The Sun Conference champion receives an automatic bid. The remaining teams must rely on at-large spots. USCB, which finished fourth in this year's NAIA tournament, seems to have few worries as to whether it will earn another bid.

"We set out to have a good year this year," said Shane LeBaron, USCB's director of golf. "And this is part of what we do along the way. The boys are going to play well."

LeBaron, who moved to his current position before the season after coaching the men's team, credited new men's coach Chris Cuneo for a tweak that has helped the Sand Sharks' practices become more competitive. USCB players earn spots in tournaments by playing three- or four-round qualifiers, with a cut for those on the Sand Sharks roster who don't go low enough after a designated number of holes.

The result has been four different players in the No. 5 spot for each of the tournaments this fall.

"You're returning the No. 4 team in the nation," said Cuneo, who previously coached the USCB women's team. "If you can beat them, you can beat anybody we play. That's the idea behind it."

Luke McClellan led USCB on Tuesday with a final-round 69, which left him 5 over for the tournament. Chris Lane finished two shots back of Thacker.

Thacker, an Englishman, said he liked the Wilmington Island Club's Donald Ross design. He put together rounds of 72-70-70.

"I seem to do pretty well around here for one reason or another," he said. "I just enjoy playing it."

SeeMore NAIA Intercollegiate

Tuesday, at Wilmington Island Club

Team results

1. USC Beaufort 292-286-284-862 +10

2. Reinhardt 296-287-289-872 +20

3. St. Thomas (Fla.) 291-303-293-887 +35

4. Webber International 295-293-300-888 +36

5. Johnson & Wales (Fla.) 299-294-300-893 +41

6. SCAD Savannah 297-293-307-897 +45

7. Mobile 311-323-302-936 +84

8. Thomas (Ga.) 307-329-313-949 +97

9. SCAD Atlanta 319-333-311-963 +111

Individual Top 20

1. Estaban Aristizabal, St. Thomas (Fla.) 69-73-69 211 -2

t2. Zach Lindsey, Reinhardt 71-68-73 212 -1

t2. George Thacker, USCB 72 -70-70 212 -1

t4. Chris Lane, USCB 70 -73-71 214 +1

t4. Connor O'Dell, Webber International 69-72-73 214 +1

6. Tom Gamble, Webber International 71-70-76 217 +4

7. Luke McClellan, USCB 79-70-69 218 +5

t8. Jason Harris, Johnson & Wales (Fla.) 70-73-76 219 +6

t8. Justin Osborne, Reinhardt 74-72-73 219 +6

t10. Brandon Meltzer, Johnson & Wales (Fla.) 74-71-75 220 +7

t10. Omar Tejeira, St. Thomas (Fla.) 73-75-72 220 +7

t12. Greg Hughes, Webber International 76-72-73 221+8

t12. Andrew Marco, SCAD Savannah, 75-71-75 221 +8

t12. Justin McMillen, SCAD Savannah 70-75-76 221 +8

t15. Tom Hayes, SCAD Savannah 75-70-78 223 +10

t15. Dan Merriman, Reinhardt 78-75-70 223 +10

17. Chris Cartwright, Reinhardt 74-72-78 224 +11

t18. Je Her, St. Thomas (Fla.) 78-72-75 225 +12

t18. Matt Luckett, Thomas (Ga.) 68-79-78 225 +12

t18. Jordan Meltzer, Johnson & Wales (Fla.) 74-79-72 225 +12

t18. Jon Pannone, USCB 71-75-79 225 +12

t18. Austin Ujhelyi, Reinhardt 77-75-73 225 +12

Also

t23. Travis Cashion, USCB 79-73-74 226 +13

t23. Coley Davis, USCB 76-78-72 226 +13

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