by Benny Benton
CONOVER, N.C. – The Barton College men's golf team finished off a major victory on Tuesday, firing a final-round 282 to pad its first-round lead and claim the 2017 NCAA Division II South/Southeast Super Regional Preview.
The Bulldogs won by six strokes over second-place Belmont Abbey College and eight strokes over North Greenville University. Barton finished 11 shots ahead of preseason No. 21 Lincoln Memorial University, which placed fourth.
"We just wanted to go out and take care of business today," said Barton head golf coach Ashley Leonard. "We wanted to really focus on just playing our golf, not worrying about what everyone else around us was doing. In the past, we've gotten caught up in that a little bit. We just tried to keep our mind on playing the best we could play."
A total of 17 programs competed in the tournament, which provided teams with an early look at the course on which the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Regional will be played next May.
"With a win this week, we put ourselves in a good position regionally," Leonard said. "It was exciting. We'll enjoy this a day or two, then we'll get back to work on Thursday."
Barton started the day with a five-shot edge over LMU, but increased its final margin of victory after receiving rounds of 70 from juniors Justin Plane, Logan Zimarino and Scott Pechacek, as well as a 72 from freshman Bryson Boyette. The Bulldogs were able to drop the 75 of senior Travis Broome.
"The coolest part was when they all starting coming in, talking about what they shot … and seeing the pure joy and excitement in them," Leonard said. "That's what it's about. Every day that goes by, they believe more and more in themselves. It's fun to watch and fun to see them play golf."
Boyette started the day in the lead, just ahead of Plane, but both had to settle for second place at 140 after Belmont Abbey's Nick Stafford, the reigning Conference Carolinas Golfer of the Year, blistered the Rock Barn course with a sizzling 63 to win individual medalist honors.
Still, Boyette (68-72) was able to claim his first career runner-up finish and third top-15 in four collegiate starts. Plane (70-70) finished runner-up for the fourth time in his career and notched his sixth top-five finish. Both earned all-tournament honors for their performances.
Zimarino added his second career top-10 finish, tying for ninth place at 144 (74-70). Broome tied for 55th place in the 85-player field at 153 (78-75), and Pechacek tied for 72nd place at 159 (89-70).
"Bryson finished birdie-birdie to get to even-par today, which was huge for us," Leonard said. "Justin played well with another under-par round. Logan played his butt off this week. And obviously, to see Scott bounce back from a disappointing round yesterday to shoot 70 today probably was the difference maker for us in winning the tournament. It was just a great team effort."
Barton will return to the course next week for one more fall tournament, the Donald Ross Invitational, which begins Monday at Mimosa Hills Golf Club in Morganton, N.C.