The No. 1-ranked NCAA Division-III Emory men’s golf team carded a strong final-round finish to capture first-place honors out of 30 teams at the Jekyll Island Collegiate Invitational held from March 15 to 17. The Eagles posted a team score of two-under par 288 to finish three shots better than runner-up Huntingdon College (Ala.). Although they have appeared in the event for the last 20 years, this victory marks the first time the Eagles have won the invitational.
Although the Eagles didn’t play as well as they would have liked during the first round, they began building momentum in the second round on March 16
“[In] the second round, we were really good,” Yabukov said. “We didn’t make a single double [bogey], which is incredible. I am not sure we have ever done that before.”
The Eagles sat atop the leaderboard following the first two days of competition.
Coming off back-to-back wins in their last tournament outings, the Eagles have developed strong team chemistry and unbelievable depth, according to Head Coach John Sjoberg.
“In the third round, we knew we were playing well and if we played well, nobody could catch us,” senior Connor Yabukov said. “Whenever we would see someone on another hole, we would go over to them and fist-bump. Every time someone made a birdie, we would wave our hat to the guy behind us.”
The Eagles dominated the last round of competition on March 17, closing out the tournament on the back of freshman Logan Ryan’s five consecutive birdies. Ryan tied for fourth out of 150 players with a five-under score of 211 (73-69-69).
Sjoberg monitored golfers throughout the tournament, peppering in positive comments to motivate Ryan inon his final stretch on Sunday. With six holes left in the tournament, Ryan said he knew that the Eagles were two shots back from Methodist University (N.C.).
With a narrow miss on hole 13, Ryan said he remained unfazed by the challenge ahead.
“I told Coach [Sjoberg], ‘Don’t worry about it. I got this,’ and I rattled five off from there,” Ryan said. “I got a birdie on 14, which was a long and hard par three, and then said that I needed to get one more to be safe. It just flipped a switch.”
Despite their strong start, the Eagles were faced with the task of overcoming severe weather conditions – a one-hour rain delay that held up play on Sunday.
“Everyone knows that we have the best team in the country when the conditions are perfect,” Yakubov said. “But when the course gets muddied up, when it gets harder, everyone thinks they can beat us. We have to go out there and prove that we can still play, which I feel like we did.”
Ryan was not the only player who impressed at Jekyll Island. Yakubov tied for sixth on the leaderboard with a four-under 212 (74-67-71), while junior Matt Organisak tied for 22nd position after shooting one-under 215 (70-74-71). Sophomore Eric Yiu (220) and junior Sam Galloway (226) tied for 33rd and 62nd spots, respectively. In honor of their finishes, Ryan and Yakubov brought home all-tournament recognition.
“I’ve been wanting to win this event all four years,” Yakubov said. “It’s really great that we won, and that I am going out on a high note. I’m taking it one event at a time and to build to nationals because that is the ultimate goal.”
The Eagles look to carry their pride and mental fortitude into the rest of the season.
“Now it’s about the little things and [about making] this as enjoyable as possible… to love going to the golf course everyday and to really love what we are trying to accomplish,” Sjoberg said.
Emory returns to action on April 1 to 2 at the Huntingdon Spring Intercollegiate in Montgomery, Ala.