MIDDLETOWN, Del. - - It wasn't nearly as suspension as last spring's tournament, but nonetheless the Wilmington University golf team captured its eighth consecutive Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament on Monday afternoon, playing at the Back Creek Golf Course.
The Wildcats jumped out to a large lead in the opening round on Sunday, shooting a 287 to open an 18-stroke lead. The Wildcats again posted the best score of the day on Monday, shooting a 299 to finish with a 586 (+18), 20 strokes ahead of the field.
It is the second CACC Championship of the 2017 calendar year for the Wildcats, as this year's league title was moved to the fall. The previous seven CACC Championships the Wildcats have won have all come during the spring season.
The eight consecutive CACC Championships is believed to be the longest such streak in conference history. The Concordia College women's tennis program won seven straight CACC Championships from 2009-2015.
The Wildcats closed out their eighth straight championship by placing all five of their competitors in the top eight.
Newcomer Enrique Valverde (at left) made a run at the Medalist Honors, birdieing three straight holes to start the back nine. His score was as low as two under par before a bogey on 18 brought him back to even par on the day. Concordia's Evan Hong, playing in a different group, tied Valverde for the lead with a birdie on 16. Valverde, who start on the fourth hole, wasn't able to answer, bogeying on the par three fourth hole to fall a stroke behind Hong. Each golfer pared their final hole to allow Hong to win by a stroke.
Senior Joey Russo made a late surge as well, sinking birdie putts on 16 and 17 to get back to two-over par. But that would be as close as he could get to the leaders, as he bogeyed his final hole, hole number one, to end his round with a 74 (+3). He finished third overall for the championship, shooting a 72-74 for a 146 (+4).
Junior Ryan Rucinski couldn't find the mojo he had during the first round, slipping from atop the leaderboard where he stood after the opening round. On Monday, Rucinski birdied the par four fourth to get back to one-over par, but a double bogey on eight and three bogeys on the back nine saw him slip to fourth place overall. He finished the tournament with a 70-77 for a 147 (+5).
Sophomore Braden McKay rebounded nicely from a slow start on Monday. He marked a triple bogey on the par four third before another double bogey put him at five-over par through the first three holes played. He finished the front nine with five straight pars before hitting his lone birdie of the afternoon on the par five 11th. He finished at five-over par for the round. McKay finished tied for fifth overall with a 72-76 for a 148 (+6).
Zac Moore wasn't far behind his teammates, as he finished eighth overall for the Championship. On Monday, he birdied the par four 12th to get back to one-over par but a double bogey on 13 saw him slip back to three-over par. Three more bogeys on the back nine had him finish the 18th at six-over par. Moore sank a birdie putt on the par four first, but finished his round with another bogey, finishing with a 77 (+6). He closed the tournament with a 73-77 for a 150 (+6).
Concordia finished second to the Wildcats, shooting a 305-301 for a tournament score of 606 (+38). Dominican rounded out the top three with a 308-304 for a 612 (+44).
With the win, the Wildcats earned the CACC's automatic berth into the 2018 NCAA Division II Atlantic/East Super Regional Tournament in May.
Until then, the Wildcats will prep for the postseason with the remaining fall and spring schedule. The Wildcats head to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., next week to compete at the Golf Rank Invitational, hosted by Nova Southeastern University at PGA National. The first round is scheduled for Monday, October 9.