HAWORTH, N.J. - - Trailing by 10 strokes entering the second and final round, the Wilmington University golf team stormed back to claim the 2019 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Championship on Tuesday, making it nine titles in the last 10 years, with rounds of 308-292 for a 600 (+24) at the White Beeches Golf & Country Club.
The Wildcats battled to site two strokes back as a team after each student-athlete made the turn, and then turned on the jets to eventually take the lead and defeat Goldey-Beacom by six strokes. Goldey-Beacom finished second with scores of 298-308 for a 606 (+30).
Finalizing the comeback was Enrique Valverde, who moved up five spots from the first round to claim medalist honors at the championship with a 75-72 for a 147 (+3). It is the first time a Wildcat earned individual medalist honors since Freddy Braun did so in a playoff over teammate Joey Russo in April 2015.
Valverde's day didn't start strong, as he came out of the gates with a double-bogey. But he answered right back with a birdie on the par four second, and then got to even par with a birdie on the par four fifth hole. Another birdie on the par five eight again had him at even par for the round. He got as low as one-under with a birdie on the par three 13th, but a bogey on the par four 17th evened his round and a par on the 18th finished his day with a 72 (E). He led the tournament with being one-under on all the par three holes for the week, was third with six birdies, and tied for second overall with 23 pars.
It is also the first time since that playoff in 2015 that the Wildcats went first and second on the leaderboard, as freshman Tyler Cleaves moved five spots up the ranks as well on Tuesday, shooting rounds of 76-73 for a 149 (+5) to finish second overall. Cleaves led the entire tournament with 24 pars, while also sinking four birdies in the two rounds. He was even par on the par three holes this week, as well as coming in one-under par on all the par five holes.
Senior Braden McKay took the biggest leap up the leaderboard for the Wildcats on Tuesday, shooting a 72 (E) to jump 20 spots and into a tie for 18th overall. She finished with rounds of 86-72 for a 158 (+14). He was as low as two-under par twice in his round, sinking back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12 to get their first, and then sank another birdie on the par four 15th to again get to two-under. But back-to-back bogeys to close the round brought him back to even for the day.
Senior Arvy Shongwe was not to be outdone, moving up 10 spots on Tuesday and into a tie for 11th overall with a 75 (+3) in the second round. He finished his tournament with an 80-75 for a 155 (+11). Shongwe birdied holes one and three on the front, and birdied the par five 11th to get back to even par for the day. A double-bogey, a bogey, and five pars closed out his round, coming in with a 75 (+3) to factor into the scoring for the team.
Senior Jack Dixon collected just the second eagle of the tournament on Tuesday with a two on the par four second. He made the turn at two-over par, but three bogeys and two-double bogeys on the back-nine brought his score to an 81 (+9). He finished the tournament in a tie for 18th overall with rounds of 77-81 for a 158 (+14). Dixon was ninth best with going three-over on all the par three holes, and 10th best overall on being even on all the par five holes for the week.
The team's score of 600 is the fifth best two-round total at the CACC Championship since the Wildcats started competing in 2004-05. Tuesday's 292 is the third best round by any Wildcat team at the CACC Championship in that same time frame.
With the win, the Wildcats earn the CACC's automatic qualification into the 2020 NCAA Division II Atlantic/East Super Regional Tournament set to take place in May.
The team's fall schedule concludes in two weeks when they head to the Miami Intercollegiate hosted by Nova Southeastern at the Doral Golf Resort. The first two rounds will begin on Monday, October 21.
CACC All-Tournament Team:
1. Enrique Valverde (Wilmington University), +3 (147)
2. Tyler Cleaves (Wilmington University), +5 (149)
T3. Gonzalo Moreno (Goldey-Beacom College), +6 (150)
T3. Pablo Saenz Avila (Goldey-Beacom Colelge), +6 (150)
5. Shawn Mayer (Chestnut Hill College), +7 (151)