Braselton, Ga. - Stetson senior Sam Ryder (Longwood, Fla.) birdied his last hole of the day to shoot one under par 71 and rally to win the Atlantic Sun Conference men's golf individual championship Wednesday afternoon on the Legends course at Chateau Elan Resort. Ryder is the first Hatter to win the tournament since Tom Creavy in 1991 and will receive an automatic berth in one of next month's NCAA Regionals. Stetson moved up two spots on the final day for a fifth place finish as a team, its highest finish since 2002.
Playing in wet conditions that forced the start of play this morning back by two hours, Ryder, who opened the day at two under par in third place, started on the 10th hole and went out in even par on the back nine. After a bogey on the fourth hole dropped him to +1 on the day and -1 for the tournament, he responded with birdies on the sixth and ninth holes to shoot past North Florida's duo of Kevin Aylwin and Sean Dale plus ETSU's Rhys Enoch for a three under par finish and a two-shot victory. Ryder outplayed four of the nation's top 70 players in the GolfStat.com rankings, including #17 Dale.
Ryder's victory carries with it the Atlantic Sun's automatic bid to one of the six NCAA regional competitions May 17-19. He is the first player in program history to qualify for the NCAA postseason. Regional sites include Athens, Ga.; Greensboro, N.C.; Bowling Green, Ky.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Norman, Okla.; and Stanford, Calif.
Seniors Andrew Schiano (Orlando, Fla.) and Micah Jacobsen (Fernandina Beach, Fla.) also finished in the top half of the field for the Hatters. Schiano tied for 18th at 12 over par after a final round 76 that was capped by back-to-back birdies on the last two holes while Jacobsen came in with a 78 to tie for 22nd at +13. Sophomore Tyler White (Palm Harbor, Fla.) and freshman Matt Taylor (Naples, Fla.) rounded out the final round at 80 and 84. Stetson took fifth place in the 10-team field at 43 over par.
Nationally eighth-ranked North Florida held on down the stretch to finish 11 over par for a four-stroke victory over ETSU. #41 Kennesaw State placed third at 30 over par with FGCU (+32) taking fourth. Stetson followed in fifth place, 11 shots behind the Eagles, with Mercer (+50), USC Upstate (+54), Jacksonville (+59), Lipscomb (+61) and Belmont (+69) rounding out the field.
FACEBOOK - Stetson Athletics (facebook.com/stetsonhatters); TWITTER - @StetsonSID (twitter.com/stetsonsid)