CONOVER, N.C. -- After 90 holes of golf at Rock Barn Golf & Spa in Conover, N.C., the Saint Leo men's golf season comes to an end. The Lions magical run in the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship ended in the semifinals Thursday evening. Saint Leo fought its Sunshine State Conference foe Lynn University for a spot in the finals, but came up short in a 4-1 loss in medal match play.
The team not only broke its own program record of highest finish in an NCAA Championship, but became the first men's program in Saint Leo history to advance to an NCAA Semifinal. Saint Leo men's golf is only the second program in school history to end its season in the final four.
"This week was an incredible experience", said head coach Chris Greenwood. "I can't properly put into words how excited I am for the guys. Just advancing to the National Championship is special. But, to make it into the final four teams is exceptional".
En route to Thursday afternoon's semifinal, Saint Leo defeated Simon Fraser University 3.5 to 2.5. Saint Leo needed its final two competitors, Ryan Gendron and Joey Savoie, to both either win or tie on no. 9, the final hole of the two teams' quarterfinal match, to survive the challenge from Simon Fraser. Savoie was down one to the Clan's Kevin Vigna entering the final hole, while Gendron was even with SFU's Alan Tolusso.
Savoie managed par on the par 3 hole no. 9 while Vigna bogeyed, and both golfers were tied at +4 to split the point. Gendron also made par on no. 9 with Tolusso bogeying the hole, leaving Gendron up one at +2 and giving the match to the Lions.
Junior Liam Ainsworth and redshirt freshman James Jessop also posted match victories over Simon Fraser to help Saint Leo clinch the quarterfinal. Ainsworth won by two strokes at even par over Simon Fraser's Bret Thompson, while Jessop shot a +8 and posted a one-stroke win over the Clan's John Mlikotic. Casey Bannon faced Simon Fraser's top player Chris Crisologo who was the only player in the entire match to shoot under-par. Crisologo won the Clan's only point.
In the semifinal, Bannon again battled the top player, as he took on Lynn's Mateo Gomez. Gomez was one of three Knights to shoot under par, but the low round of the day went to Savoie. Savoie turned in an exceptional round for the Lions only point in the match. The Quebec native carded a six-under 65, the lowest score recorded at the 2015 Championship.
Jessop fell to Lynn's Keith Green by three strokes and Gendron lost to Andrew Miranda by one stroke. Ainsworth was paired with Elliott Whitley who had not turned in a single birdie through 54-holes, but collected four in medal match play for a 4-under par 67.
Saint Leo ended its season as a national semifinalist, a claim only four other schools in NCAA DII can make.