The WKU men’s golf team traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to compete in the Sam Hall Intercollegiate hosted by Conference USA foe University of Southern Mississippi.
After a 10th place finish in last year’s C-USA championships, the Hilltoppers looked to make an early statement to open the 2016 campaign.
Redshirt sophomore Billy Tom Sargent tied for first place individually as the team finished tied with Mississippi State University for third place out of 15 teams.
Sargent, a former Kentucky Mr. Golf winner, shot 5-under 208 (65-73-70) at the par-71 Hattiesburg Country Club. Sargent’s 65 on Monday’s round was the lowest score by a Topper since 2008 when Justin Perry shot 65 at the 2008 Sun Belt Championships.
His overall performance also earned him C-USA Golfer of the Week.
“I wasn’t feeling well the first day and I actually had a slow start,” Sargent said about Monday’s opening round “I was finally able to get some pars going and then I got my first birdie, an eagle, then I had some birdies roll in. It really sparked the team. Everybody started playing well.”
Sargent continued to stand near the top through day two and three. However, the Georgetown native registered bogeys on holes 14 and 15 to set him back late in the tournament.
Needing a spark, Sargent birdied the final three holes to surged him into a tie for first place with University of Texas-San Antonio’s Zander Lozano. Sargent’s 208 finish was also a career best on a 54-hole course.
“I bogeyed 14 and 15 and that set me back,” Sargent said. “I talked to Stuart [Easton] as he was coming off hole 18 and he said ‘You got this, go birdie out. You can do it.’ I hit a really good drive on 16 and was able to finish the job through hole 18.”
As a team, the Toppers shot 852 (283-284-287) to place them behind the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Southern Mississippi. Sophomore Blake Smith followed Sargent with a tie for 12th individually with a 213 (73-69-71).
Redshirt freshman Linus Lo (214) tied for 17th and freshman Kyle Jeffers (217) tied for 35th in their collegiate debuts. Sophomore Stuart Easton rounded out the card with a 224, placing him 66th to round out the scoring for WKU.
“As a coach you want to have five guys who can compete,” Head Coach Phillip Hatchett said. “Right now I feel like we’re as deep as we’ve ever been. Having Linus Lo and Kyle Jeffers step up and play as well they did was huge. Stuart Easton played well. Other than one bad hole he was right there with the rest of them.”
The Toppers are back in action September 19-20 as they travel to Louisiana to compete in the Jim Rivers Intercollegiate at Squire Creek Country Club. The tournament is hosted by Louisiana Tech University who won the Conference USA championship last season.
“We look forward to our next event at Louisiana Tech,” Hatchett said.“They won our conference last year so it’s going to be fun to go to their home turf and see how we fare against them.”
Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.