Saints triumph in regional tournament

‘Three-peat’ FSC Champs move on to national tournament in Kansas

By Glenn Judah
Photo contributed

PHOTO CAPTION: Showing off their hardware: Saints golfers captured a total of 11 honors over the weekend in Lake Wales, including the NAIA Region XIV Championship.

The seventh ranked Flagler College men’s golf team won the NAIA Region XIV tournament in Lake Wales.

Anders Ekdahl, a senior and captain of the team, led the Saints with a final score of 220. Ekdahl made the all-Region XIV team for the first time, and the all-conference team for the second consecutive year. “Anders has had the best career out of any golfer at Flagler College while I’ve been coach,” said coach Don Robbins.

Bjorn Karringer, ranked second overall individually in the NAIA, and Ian Hoffman, ranked seventh overall individually in the NAIA, also made the all-region and all-conference teams. Both players finished the regional tournament with a score of 221 for the Saints. Dustin Furnari also received all- conference honors.

Robbins was named Florida Sun Conference Coach of the Year for the third consecutive year in addition to being named this year’s NAIA Region XIV Coach of the Year.

According to Robbins, the Saints are the first team to win three conference titles in a row.
The regional championship this year was played at Lake Wales Country Club.

The team had been playing well going into the regional Championship with second and first place finishes in their previous tournaments. “Can’t feel any better about our play,” Robbins said. The team used the last two regular season finishes to propel them into the regional tournament.

According to Robbins, the Saints were the underdogs the last two years in the Florida Sun Conference Championship, but this year they were one of the teams favored to win. “We haven’t had a lot of experience as the favorites. Being the underdog you have something to shoot for,” Robbins said.

The Saints number one competition in the tournament was Johnson and Wales University, who had been ranked No. 1 in the NAIA. The Saints failed to defeat Johnson and Wales in prior tournaments. “It was unexpected to take down Johnson and Wales,” said Robbins.

Going into the regional tournament, Robbins wanted his team to put pressure on Johnson and Wales. The Saints’ strategy was to play evenly with them the first two days of the tournament, and challenge them on the final day.

Robbins thinks that beating Johnson and Wales in the regional tournament gives the Saints an edge in the upcoming NAIA National Tournament where Johnson and Wales will be their competition.

The NAIA National Tournament will take place from May 16 -19 in Kansas.

This has been one of the better seasons recent years for the team. Due to their success, Robbins has set high goals for the Saints in both the regional and the national tournaments. “Winning the regional tournament and beating the number one team in NAIA gives us an outside chance to win nationals,” Robbins said. The Saints have finished in the top 10 in the last two years at the NAIA National Tournament.

The regional tournament victory and prior experience in the National tournament has given the Saints confidence this season.

“We have the experience and confidence to meet our goals,” Robbins said. Ekdahl has competed in the last two National Tournaments for the Saints.

Karringer, Hoffman, and Brad Barfield also competed in the last National tournament for the Saints. The National tournament will be played in Olathe, Kansas, the site of the prior tournaments as well. “We feel we have an advantage at Nationals, since four of our players have played and know the golf course,” Robbins said.

Robbins wanted his team to work harder this year because it is the last season in the NAIA. He attributes this year’s great play to the team’s improved workouts. “We want to go out of the NAIA with a bang,” he said.

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