Fortunes for those in back of the leader started changing in 2009. Stetson and Campbell swapped positions between the first and second records and the Camels entered the final round in front by three. However, thanks to a team score of even par, the Hatters became the first school to come back from a final-round deficit since Campbell rallied against UCF in 2002.
The Hatters made a more improbable comeback last year at Venetian Bay. They stood in fifth place and 12 strokes back of ETSU. Using a record-setting team score of 2-under 286, they successfully held off the competition by a single stroke, completing the largest comeback at the A-Sun Championship in 10 years.
These two comebacks all lead into today. Through the first two rounds, the Hatters fended off slow starts to stay within shouting distance of the leaders. On Monday, they played the opening nine holes in 8-over par to fall off the pace, but a closing nine score of 2-over brought them within four of first-round leader Kennesaw State. A slow front side again on Tuesday nearly cost the Hatters. The deficit within the second round approached double digits, but steadying play on the back nine, combined with other teams falling back to the pack meant the Hatters needed only to make up a deficit of three.
“I think that we always believe we have a chance to win,” junior Lauren Cate, who has been a part of all three comebacks, said. “We never stop trying and we know that we have a chance to win. We go out and leave everything on the table.”
After a four-over-par front side, the Hatters reached the top of the leaderboard, holding a one-stroke lead as they and the Camels hit the back nine. From there, the four scoring Hatters collected seven birdies, including three on No. 18, en route to shooting a 1-under par back nine and leaving the field behind, ending with a 12-stroke advantage.
“This morning [head coach Floyd Kerr] said not to play against Campbell and Kennesaw State, but more to just play the golf course and see what happens,” tournament medalist Alexandria Buelow said.
The A-Sun tournament started the day after the Masters, the tournament long associated with the phrase “it doesn’t start until the back nine on the final round.” Stetson’s back-nine charge locked up a third straight conference crown and put Hatter golf in exclusive company. They became just the third A-Sun school in the 22-year of the championship to win three straight conference titles.
The Hatters will make a third appearance at NCAA Regionals next month looking to build on consecutive 19th-place showings in 2009 and 2010.