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Senators, Hodge both finish national runner-up

Senators, Hodge both finish national runner-up

PLYMOUTH, Ind. — The incredible run by Walters State and sophomore Alex Hodge at the 2019 NJCAA Division II Golf National Championship fell just short of titles for both Friday as big finishes from South Mountain and Leon D'Souza allowed them both to escape with national titles.


South Mountain closed the tournament with by far the best round of the week, shooting 9-under par 279 on the day at The Swan Lake Resort's Black Course, led by D'Souza carding a 5-under 67 to clinch the championship for himself and his team.


The Senators had a rough opening to the day, but thanks to solid play on the back nine, specifically the final six holes, Walters State held on for a second place finish. Hodge birdied four straight holes, bookending that run with birdies on a pair of par-3 holes, but he finished two shots back in second place after firing a 70 on the day.


South Mountain claimed its sixth national championship, including its fourth in the last seven years, with a team score of 15-over par 1167 for the week. Walters State was next in line, as its closing 295 put it at 34-over par 1186 for the week after leading through each of the first two rounds.


Mississippi Gulf Coast was third at 1203, followed by Kirkwood (1213), Parkland (1221), Black Hawk (1227), Rend Lake (1231), Murray State (1236), Meridian (1237) and Abraham Baldwin (1242) in the top 10.


Des Moines Area led off the next 10 with a score of 1246 for the week, followed by Scottsdale (1254), Tyler (1254), Grand Rapids (1271), Southwestern (1272), Oakland (1282), Mott (1299), Lake County (1322), Southeast Nebraska (1331), Buck's County (1407) and Southern Maryland (1434) in the 21-team event.


Hodge bogeyed three of his first four holes before notching two birdies over the next four to get back to 1-over 37 making the turn. After a bogey on 11, he birdied holes 13 through 16 to get back into contention to win the individual title but recorded a par on the final two holes to close at 70 on the day and 2-under par 286 (73-70-73-70) for the week, two shots behind D'Souza (73-71-73-67—284).


For his efforts, Hodge was named to the All-Tournament Team and the All-American First Team following the round.


Andrew Linkous ended the week in 11th place after posting a closing 75 to end up at 9-over par 297 (76-71-75-75) for the week. Linkous shot 39 on the front with two bogeys, a double bogey and a birdie, but he shot even par 36 on the back with two birdies and two bogeys. Linkous was named to the All-Tournament Team and also named a Second Team All-American following the tournament.


Dane Rheinecker shot an 81 in the final round to end the week in a tie for 24th place at 305 (73-73-78-81). A triple bogey and five bogeys on the front nine led to a 44, but he rebounded with just two bogeys and a birdie on the 15th hole to shoot 37 on the inward nine. Rheinecker was named an Honorable Mention All-American following the tournament.


Hunter Blanken finished the week in a tie for 28th place after closing with a 77 to shoot 306 (75-77-77-75) for the tournament. Two bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine led to a 40, and a double bogey on the 11th hole before a birdie on the 18th hole gave him a 37 on the final nine of the week.


Stephen Owen had his best round of the week in the final 18, carding a 1-over par 73 to finish tied for 73rd  at 320 (86-77-84-73). Owen shot a 39 on the front with seven pars, a bogey and a double bogey before notching seven pars and two birdies on the back for a closing 34.


South Mountain had three players finish in the top eight, as D'Souza won the tournament, Branden Meyer was fourth at 3-over par 291 (73-73-76-69) and Jonathan Walters in a tie for eighth at 8-over 296 (77-75-73-71).