Easton Johnson won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Men’s Golf National Championship and The Master’s University team finished second in the team competition at Las Sendas Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz. on Friday, May 19.
Johnson’s birdie on the second playoff hole clinched the win over Bellevue (NE) University’s Hugo Ronnberg. The two were tied at 8-under at the end of the 72-hole tournament.
As a team, the Mustangs shot a final round 4-under 284 to finish the four-day championship at 8-over par, three strokes behind the University of British Columbia. It is the highest finish for a TMU men’s golf team in the national championship.
“Honored, grateful that the guys played so hard and they played in such a way that God was glorified,” said TMU Head Coach Jacob Hicks. “That’s always the goal, and so I just rejoice in that. It stings that we came up a little bit short but we put up one heckuva fight today. The boys played so well, they weren’t scared, they hit some awesome shots and they fought to the end. You know, we talked last night about all the hard work that has gone into this entire year to just be in a position to actually make a run. And the guys were just so excited about that. Thinking back on the 6 a.m. workouts, the extra work that I don’t even see outside of practice, the adversity we went through this semester. All of that brought us here to this moment.”
Johnson finished with an 8-under 280 (71-70-71-68). His 4-under 68 featured five birdies against just one bogey. With the win, the TMU freshman was named NAIA Player of the Year, NAIA Freshman of the Year and First Team All-American.
“Easton deserves all the awards,” Hicks said. “In the playoff, it was amazing how confident and comfortable he was. It was impressive how locked in he was. We were walking down the fairway and I looked over and I said, ‘Buddy, you are the most overdue person to win this tournament.’ He has been knocking on the door the entire year. So it’s cool to see him come out on top.”
In addition to celebrating with his teammates after his win, Easton was able to embrace his family next to the 18th green.
“Its hard to describe. There has been a lot of hard work put into this,” Johnson said of the emotional moment with his parents. “A lot of hours with my dad just grinding and thousands of balls and thousands of hours just thinking around golf courses just prepared me for this.”
And it wasn’t finished after 72 holes.
“Getting into the playoff, I just felt a calmness having coach there and just knowing where I was at and that I had worked hard for this,” he said. “Thanks be to God I was able to get it done and He was able to give me the strength to do that.”
Johnson becomes the second TMU golfer to win a national championship after Chad Wensel did it in 2004.
Jack Dudeck finished with a 1-under 71 and a four-day total of 3-under 285 (74-71-69-71) to finish tied for fifth. Last year he was the national runner-up.
“For Jack to finish tied for fifth, especially after not having a good first round, he battled and led the team,” Hicks said. “It’s bittersweet because this is his last (collegiate tournament). He’s created an amazing legacy and he’s built in to our program a culture of winning. I attribute a lot of our mentality to him and he’s helped Easton just become a killer.”
“There’s just so much to take in at the moment,” Dudeck said. “There’s a little bit of frustration just because I wish I could have done a little better and made a couple more putts, but at the same time I’m just so proud of these guys. All the shenanigans we’ve done this year, just being boys and practicing and the late nights… it’s just a lot of fun. And to see it pay off for all these guys is huge. I’m proud of each and every one of them and I wish them the best for the next few years.”
Mitchell Briley finished the tournament at 9-over (297), DonDon Bumacod (voted by the other teams as the tournament sportsmanship winner) was 13-over and Seth Bishop finished 18-over.
“Thankful to the Lord for blessing us and we are already looking forward to next year,” Hicks said.
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