The Binghamton golf team wrapped up its season this past weekend with an appearance at the Big Sky Championships in Boulder City, Nevada. The Bearcats found themselves behind after a rough first round from which they did not recover, ultimately placing near the bottom of the leaderboard in sixth place out of eight schools.
Despite the disappointing start, the team did put together a strong final round on Sunday, ending the season on a positive note. The Bearcats collectively shot a final round of 287, good for one under par and the fourth-best score of the day.
“To end on a high note like that just shows the players on our team and others what our potential is and what we can accomplish when we play to our capabilities,” said BU head coach Bernie Herceg. “With us being a younger team, it shows these guys we can be right in the thick of things.”
Freshman Justin Lane posted his highest placement on the individual leaderboard in his young career, finishing in 10th place with a total score of plus-two on 218 shots. Lane earned the distinction of top rookie finisher in the entire tournament, and also posted the second-highest placement in the Big Sky Championships in Binghamton history (Kyle Wambold finished in seventh in 2016).
Sophomore Ryan Rodriguez and junior Zak Ottman did not place far behind Lane, both finishing in a tie for 12th with four other players. Each had scores of five over par for the weekend on 221 shots. Ottman’s final round of 69 was the best round of any Bearcat all weekend.
This is the second time that the Bearcats played a tournament at the Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City this spring season, as the Jackrabbit Invitational took place there in early March. The return to Boulder City benefited Binghamton, as it was able to play on a familiar course.
“It definitely helped,” Herceg said. “It helps being more comfortable off the tee, because it is a tight course on some holes … If we happen to go back there one more time for a championship we can be better because we’ll just have that many more rounds out here.”
Unfortunately for BU, the team was entrenched in the bottom half of the leaderboard for the entire championship and was never in contention for the top spot. That honor went to Northern Colorado, who staved off a challenge from Southern Utah in the final round to win the title.
The tournament turned into a two-horse race between the two schools by the end of the first round, as the third-place team was ten shots back off the lead. Northern Colorado gained the lead after round two and held it throughout the final round on Sunday to beat out Southern Utah by three shots.
The race for the individual title was even closer and more dramatic. It was a back-and-forth affair between Northern Colorado senior Andrew Romano and Southern Utah senior Fidel Concepcion atop the individual leaderboard. Concepcion led after round one, but Romano flipped the script to take a three-shot lead after round two. On Sunday it looked like Romano was going to get the edge, but a bogey on 17 kept Concepcion alive, and he birdied two out of his last three to force a tie. Romano went on to win the tiebreaker.
For the Bearcats, the result was not what they had hoped for, but they still take many positive things away from this tournament. For the first time since joining the Big Sky Conference, the Bearcats placed three golfers in the top 15 of the Big Sky Championships. The team also got much contribution from its younger members this year, as a freshman has had the top finish for Binghamton in each invitation this spring season.
“Overall, I’m really looking forward and I’m excited about the future just because of the talent these guys have,” Herceg said. “As some of these younger guys gain more and more experience, they’re gonna have better scores … It’s just gonna help our overall team scoring and [help us] come together like we can and compete at the level that we’re capable of.”