SALEM, Ore. – University of Houston-Victoria golfer Vance Edwards made his sophomore season a memorable one Friday when he finished in the top 20 at the 62nd annual NAIA Men's Golf National Championships.
Edwards, a graduate of Corpus Christi King High School, turned in his second straight even-par round Friday to finish at 7-over 295, just two shots shy of the automatic qualifying score to make it into next year's championships as he tied for 20th position. Edwards finished with rounds of 76-75-72-72.
"This has been a truly awesome experience, Edwards said. "To be able to do it as a sophomore makes you want to work that much harder to get back and try to win it the next two years."
His coach, Brian Williamson, echoed Edwards' feelings.
"It was a great accomplishment for him to get here, but to finish in the top 20 was an exclamation point on what it takes, Williamson said. "He proved he can definitely handle the pressure and it was fun to watch mature out there on the course over the last four days."
Just like on his round Thursday, he suffered one hiccup but he recovered nicely to birdie his final hole, the par-4 ninth, to finish at even par.
He started the day off bogey-bogey and then added back-to-back birdies before finishing the final five holes with pars to go out in even-par 36. He got to the red numbers at the par-4 first hole with a birdie to get to one under.
After a bogey at the par-3 fourth, he continued his mastery on the par-5s with a birdie at the 480-yard, par-5 fourth hole. The wheels then became a little wobbly when his tee shot at the fifth settled in a hazard. He played his shot to just short of the putting surface and got a little too aggressive with his chip for birdie and ran it to far past the whole and finished with a double bogey.
Then after three straight pars, he put the finishing touches on his round with a final birdie at the 439-yard, par-4 ninth.
"My plan today was to go out and shoot even par or better," Edwards said. "I told myself anything over par was unacceptable. Went from there and just took it one shot at a time."
After sluggish start to the tournament where he was six over after nine holes, Edwards played his final 63 holes at one over par as he recorded 12 birdies and 40 pars during that stretch.
"He did an excellent job," Williamson said. "He covered his mistakes very well and really hung in there with some very difficult pin placements all four days. I know this was nothing like what he has ever seen before. It had everything a championship course would have – rough, wet conditions and was penalizing if you made the least little mistake - and for him to hang in there speaks volumes for where he has come with his game."
Edwards finished in a four-way tie fourth with Faulkner University's Brandon Goodwin, Bethel's (Ind.) Brady Klotz and the University of the Cumberlands' Alastair Tidcombe after beginning the day tied for 32nd.
Oklahoma City's Sondre Ronold claimed top individual honors with a two-shot victory at 5-under 283. Aaron Flores of Our Lady of the Lake and Adam Loran of California State-San Marcos finished tied for second at 3-under 285.
Oklahoma City breezed to the team championship finishing at 4-under 1,148, while Texas Wesleyan University placed second at 24-over 1,176 and California State-San Marcos was third at 29-over 1,181.
For full leaderboard go to: http://www.golfstatresults.com//public/leaderboards/team/static/team_players_3724.html