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Bulldogs are Barton Intercollegiate champs

Barton B team takes second place

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WILSON — The sweep (team championship and individual top finish) eluded the host Bulldogs in Tuesday’s final round of the annual Barton Intercollegiate men’s and women’s golf tournament at Wilson Country Club.

With the rain staying away but the wind howling, Barton, with a balanced lineup, did hang onto the lead and capture the team championship by nine strokes in the eight-team field.

The Bulldogs added a 302 for their low four individuals to their opening 293 for a 595 total in holding off the Barton B team (306-298—604) and archrival University of Mount Olive (309-297—606).

Individually, Barton’s Harrison Wierse, a 6-foot-6 freshman from Topsail High, was unable to maintain his first-round lead and wound up the runner-up, losing a head-to-head duel with Mount Olive’s Brice Ballin, a sophomore from France.

Ballin fired a 71-72—143, 1-under-par over the par 36-36—72, 6,851-yard layout, to prevail by two shots against Wierse (68-77—145). Wierse entered the final round with a three-shot advantage against Wierse.

The two-day, 36-hole event was resumed this year after not enough teams showed and canceled last year’s scheduled tournament.

In the women’s tourney, Barton, with just four players available, remained in fourth place at 343-346—689.

Jennifer Keim, a senior transfer from Florida Atlantic, not only ran away with the individual championship but led Tusculum of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Conference to team supremacy.

The quintet from Greeneville, Tennessee, carded rounds of 318-314—632 to prevail by three shots against first-round leader Mount Olive (316-319—635). Belmont Abbey finished third at 320-320—640.

Mount Olive, Belmont Abbey and Barton are members of the Division II Conference Carolinas.

Barton’s overall performance left head coach Derek Hamm encouraged.

“I see nothing but positives coming out of this,” Hamm declared. “Any time we can get the A and B teams to finish first and second in the same tournament, it’s showing depth.

“The goal is to win every tournament. But we needed to come in with the mindset we didn’t have it won (13-shot lead after opening round) and be prepared for a dogfight. And Mount Olive came out swinging, but we were able to hold them off.”

The Bulldogs were paced by junior Bryson Boyette, the 2018 medalist, with a 1-over-par 73. Barton also counted a 76 from Nikolaj Dahl and Logan Zimarino and Wierse’s 77.

“I just didn’t hit the shots I needed to under pressure,” Wierse reviewed. “I played good — a little bit better than my score showed. It was a learning experience, but I felt like I should have won. There’s always next year.”

Observed Hamm: “Harrison didn’t lose it; he just got beat.”

The Barton freshman clung to the lead by matching Ballin’s birdie on the par-4, No. 15 layout. Wierse and Ballin then stepped onto the par-3, No. 17 tee even.

Ballin seized the lead for the first time with a birdie, while Wierse parred to trail by a shot. Ballin added to his cushion with a par at No. 18.

Both players knew how they stood against one another throughout the round. Ballin birdied Nos. 2, 15 and 17.

“I’m super happy,” Ballin reacted. “Being three shots down, it was kind of tough. I had to stay patient and a tried to stay safe. I wasn’t playing crazy because I knew my game was not crazy good. I saved some good pars — that was the key.”

Ballin acknowledged his playing experiences in France benefited him in the windy conditions.

“I always play a very low ball,” he explained. “I was satisfied with the way I played.”

While Ballin won his first tournament on American soil, Barton’s Hamm was elated to see eight of his players off the A and B teams finish in the top 10.

Boyette and junior Justin Poole of the B team tied for third at 147. Freshman Kris Jackson of the B team and Dahl tied deadlocked for sixth at 151. Junior Owen Dick of the B squad wound up eighth at 152, while Zimarino and Austin Schone shared the No. 9 spot at 154.

Poole and Jackson tied for Tuesday’s low round of 2-under 70. Poole birdied Nos. 6, 7 and 13, while Jackson birdied Nos. 4, 7, 12 and 15 in posting his collegiate career low.

“This will help grow my confidence for the next few tournaments,” Poole assured. “The wind was howling but I hit the ball really well. My putting helped a lot.”

Poole didn’t consider the 13-shot deficit to Barton’s A team insurmountable.

“We felt like we could catch them,” he contended with a smile. “We put up a good fight, but we didn’t finish well as a team.”

Jackson credited his success to “staying focused and taking it one shot at a time. This gives me more confidence for the rest of the year.”

Barton’s women slipped three shots the final 18 holes as senior Nikki Norlin again set the pace with an 82 and led the Lady Bulldogs by earning a share of ninth place.

Senior Clare McMahon posted an 83 while junior Jailynn Thomas shot 94 and freshman Grace Greene 89.

Tusculum’s Keim emerged the women’s story with her 73-73—146 that included two birdies Monday and birdies at Nos. 8 and 14. She won her second event since transferring and keyed Tusculum to its second 2020 top finish.

“I feel good; it was awesome,” Keim remarked. “The wind picked up at the end, but I played solid. I made some good putts to save myself.

“I just tried to think fairways and greens; I knew the wind was going to pick up. I tried not to think too much.”

Keim described the team accomplishment as “awesome” as Olivia Cunningham shot 81-78—159, Hannah Brown 82-83—165 and Taylor Gransen 86-82—168.

“We all felt solid and that our game was there,” she commented, “we just had to put it all together, keep our heads in it and not get discouraged. Just think fairways and greens and keep it simple.”

Keim was followed by Belmont Abbey’s Morgan Comer at 78-78—156, Mount Olive’s Linn Anderson at 77-79—156, Belmont Abbey’s Jenna Nagy at 80-77—157 and Mount Olive’s Emma Leclercq at 79-78—157.