Cal State Stanislaus’ proud golf tradition seized center stage – well, almost – at the Warriors’ 43rd Hanny Stanislaus Invitational.
The Warriors placed third, their best tournament finish this season, with their best single-day performance Tuesday at Turlock Country Club. Most teams not named Chico State – ranked No. 1 among NCAA Division II teams and the Hanny champion for the first time – would have taken that result and celebrated into the night.
First-year Stanislaus coach Brandon Christianson had no complaints. The Warriors, who have logged tournament finishes between fifth and eighth this spring, may have broken through just in time for the postseason.
“Exactly what we needed at this time of the year,” Christianson said. “It was at the right time and on our own course.”
Stanislaus, 10th at the Hanny a year ago, also scored sportsmanship points this day. A.J. Borges, one of the Warriors’ two seniors, guided the team with a closing 4-under-par 68 that could have plunged lower if not for one unfortunate event.
Borges, a Lodi product who transferred from Modesto Junior College, called a one-stroke penalty on himself on the ninth green. He believed his ball moved after he addressed a 25-foot birdie putt. After consulting the players in his group, he assessed the penalty and three-putted for a double-bogey 6.
“In your heart, you want the lower score, but the ball moved,” Borges said, “and you have everyone else out there abiding by the rules.”
8 Stanislaus’ sub-par total during Tuesday’s final round
Trouble was, Borges had 15 holes left. “Go put your brass knuckles on,” Christianson advised.
To his credit, Borges rallied for seven birdies and, more importantly, showed major-league resolve. The 68 was his season’s best.
“He was put in a tough spot there, but he did the right thing and made the right decision,” Christianson said. “A.J. did everything he could from that point on.”
Christianson, who took over this season after John Cook moved on to Pacific, understands what is required, physically and emotionally, to succeed at high levels. He was a four-year member of the UCLA team that won the 2008 NCAA championship. That said, he recognized the step the Warriors took in their 16-team event.
Chico earned its fifth tournament victory this season with a 54-hole total of 850, 14 under par, followed by Sonoma State at 857 and Stanislaus at 861. The hosts, sitting in fifth place after Monday’s two rounds, tied with fifth-place Dominican for Tuesday’s low round, 8-under 280.
The Warriors were led by senior Michael Mencaccy (71-70-73 – 214), who tied for ninth.
“I hit it well on Monday. Today, I kept grinding and scrambled,” Mencaccy said. “I didn’t hit it good off the tee at all.”
Mencaccy’s teammates weren’t far behind. Junior Jordan Koelewyn, a first-year Stanislaus player out of West Hills, finished 12th (72-74-69 – 215). Sophomore Jahaan Nargussi, a tournament winner last month at Poppy Ridge, tied for 13th (73-73-70 – 216) with Borges (75-73-68 – 216).
In your heart, you want the lower score, but the ball moved, and you have everyone else out there abiding by the rules
A.J. Borges, Stanislaus senior, who called a penalty on himself but still shot a 68
The medalist was Sonoma State junior Justin Shluker (65-71-71 – 207). Nick Rivera of Dominican closed with a 64, one stroke off the tournament record.
From now on, the stakes are raised. Stanislaus must continue its improvement at the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships next week at Silverado in Napa. If the Warriors pass that test, they can point toward the NCAA West Regional in Las Cruces, N.M. The NCAA Division II Championships will be held at Green Valley Ranch in Denver on May 16-17.
“We would have loved to have won, but Chico outgunned the field,” Christianson said. “It’s all about keeping our momentum. We do have to play well again.”