It has been a year since the North Florida men's golf team did not count a score from senior and the No. 2 ranked player in the country, Sean Dale.
Ironically it was in another final round, this time in the 2012 NCAA Championship.
In 2012 the Ospreys posted the program's best ever Division I finish, carding a final round 297 and finishing with a three-day total of 878. UNF finished tied with Florida and was just three strokes shy of reaching the top eight and advancing to match play in the championship event.
Fellow junior Kevin Phelan closed that solid week of work leading the Ospreys with a final day 73 (+2). Phelan tallied a 54-hole score of 216 (+3) en route to finishing tied for 21st in the individual standings.
There was also a pair of freshmen that contributed and undoubtedly put a little smile on Head Coach Scott Schroeder's face by giving him a glimpse into the future. Freshman MJ Maguire also shot a 74 in that final round to finish tied for 69th at 223. Classmate Joey Petronio finished tied for 89th at 225 following a final round 76 while Dale rounded out the Osprey lineup with a score of 230 (T-123rd).
In Dale's absence in the fall, Maguire recorded a pair of Top-10 finishes then added two more in the top five and another Top-10 in the spring once Dale returned. Petronio, the 2012 A-Sun Freshman of the Year, added a pairof Top-25 finishes.
But today, just like last year, the team didn't rely solely on its celebrated senior to do all of the heavy lifting. While Dale was going seven-over-par on the front nine and Kennesaw State was making a run at the defending champions, Maguire posted a solid front nine of two-under-par and Petronio also stayed under par on his first nine with a one-under-par.
Maguire kept it up on the back nine to solidify the team's effort, finding out on 16 that the individual title could be his for the taking. He proceeded to birdie 16 and carded two pars to fire a 68, the low round of the tournament, just one stroke shy of his teammate Kevin Alywin's low last season at The Legends Club.
"Coach asked me if I wanted to know where I stood and I said, 'sure, why not.' I am pretty laid back on the golf course, so it wasn't really going to affect my strategy. I knew that the course was playing tough, so knew that if I could post four-under then I would be tough to catch."
Fellow sophomore Petronio was solid for the Ospreys, carding a pair of birdies and a bogey on hif front nine to make the turn at one-under-par. Two bogeys on holes 11 and 13 and a birdie on 14 brought Petronio's score to even par.
Unlike Phelan, his day did not go as expected. After beginning round one tied for the lead at -1, he shot two-over-par on the front nine and a one-over-par on the back that included a double-bogey on 14. But that is golf.
For the day, UNF's youngsters posted a cobined score of -5, while the team's decorated seniors both experienced off days with a combined total of +11.
"It took a total team effort for us to defend our conference title," said Schroeder. "Our two youngers guys really carried us today. It was really impressive to see our underclassmen step up and take the lead for us especially in the final round.
"I am so excited for MJ to earn his first collegiate title at the conference championship. It is definitely another bright spot on his strong play this season."
"This is definitely something special, bringing home the conference championship," said Maguire. "And I am definitely looking forward to regionals. The top five make it to nationals and that is definitely the goal."
Certainly Schroeder knows that for his team to achieve that goal, it will once again take a complete team effort and more than likely the Ospreys will want to count the score from their decorated senior. However, he is now armed with the A-Sun Championship medalist and now realizes the contribution that his two sophomores are prepared to make.
"We have a lot of experience with Sean and Kevin having been around the block and Joey and MJ went through it with us all the way to finish 12th in the NCAAs," said Schroeder. That put them (Petronio and Maguire) in a good place and it was a chance to get valuable experience.
"If we get sent to a good place and we get off to a good start then we will just see what happens."