SAVANNAH, Ga. – The Bethune-Cookman University Men’s Golf team used even-par rounds from Ryan Fricker and Matthew McKnight at The Crosswinds Golf Club early Sunday afternoon, cruising to the inaugural Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Men’s Golf Championship. Sophomore Ryan Fricker became the league’s first medalist as he finished four strokes ahead of teammate Leon Fricker.
Bethune-Cookman brothers Ryan and Leon Fricker were named to the All-Tournament Team, in addition to Savannah State’s Travis Roe and Maryland Eastern Shore’s Mike Veverka.
Leading by 14 strokes entering the championship round, Bethune-Cookman (286-285-290=861, -3) shot 6-over-par as a team on Sunday, with just a single player shooting above 1-over-par. That increased the Wildcats’ lead, which held off Savannah State (300-285-291=876, +12) for the league’s first conference crown in the sport.
Under the direction of Loritz “Scooter” Clark, Men’s Golf becomes the second B-CU program to claim an MEAC title during the 2013-14 season. For his efforts, Clark was named the Most Outstanding Coach of the tournament.
“The first two days we played pretty well,” stated Clark. “Our goal when we came out today was to be about six or seven under and at one point we were. We’ve got a few things to clean up before we get to regionals.”
Ryan Fricker (69-69-72=210, -6) tied for the lead heading into his final 18 holes. The Ivybridge, England native registered birdies in his final four holes before the turn, only to record two more on the back nine. That allowed him to earn the individual trophy, and pick up the automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Tournament. This will be the second consecutive appearance for Fricker in the postseason, competing in the Tallahassee [Fla.] Regional a season ago as an at-large bid – the school’s first since 1999.
“I hit a bad drive off the first (tee) and I tried not to let it bother me too much,” Fricker said. “I ended up with a triple bogey and I wanted to start over on the second tee. I played really well from that point on. I made four birdies coming into the turn and got a bit lucky on the back nine. I lost focus a bit on the 10th hole and hit a shot into the water on 11 for a double bogey, but apart from that, I was pretty focused.”
Fellow B-CU sophomore and younger brother Leon Fricker (69-69-76=214, -2) suffered bogeys on four of his first six holes Sunday, dropping him from atop the leaderboard – a position he shared with his older brother heading into the round. Nonetheless, the younger Fricker bounced back to record par-or-better on his final 12 holes, giving him a runner-up finish for the tournament.
Finishing tied for seventh were B-CU seniors Rafael Abad (74-73-73=220, +4) and Matthew McKnight (74-74-72=220, +4). The duo were consistent across the weekend, while McKnight trimmed two strokes from Saturday’s round in the title run, scoring his first even-par round of the tournament. Abad jumped one spot up from eighth Sunday, while McKnight went up two spots.
Senior Emmanuel Petrich turned in the team’s biggest turnaround of the tournament, bouncing back from a 5-over-par round Friday, to shave three- and four-stroke margins off his final 36 holes, respectively. The Grand Blanc, Michigan native jumped four spots Sunday, finishing tied for 11th in the final standings.
Savannah State followed suit in second place on the team leaderboard, while Florida A&M (301-287-300=888, +24) was third. North Carolina Central was fourth, Hampton fifth and Maryland Eastern Shore finished off the participating teams in sixth.
Travis Roe (75-69-71=215, -1) finished third for the individual standings, followed by teammate Brandon Neals (73-70-74=217, +) and FAMU’s Dominick Vennari (75-73-71=219, +3).
With the tournament and individual medalist victories, Bethune-Cookman and Ryan Fricker receive an automatic qualification to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship. The NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Selection Show will air Monday, May 5, at 10 a.m. on the Golf Channel.