Click on images above to enlarge. At left is the 2010 Augusta (State) University NCAA Championship team: Kneeling are Patrick Reed (left) and Mitch Krywulycz; standing are Taylor Floyd (left), Carter Newman, Henrik Norlander and coach Josh Gregory. At right is the 2011 national-title team: Kneeling are Reed (left) and Krywulycz. Standing are Olle Bengtsson (left), Newman, Gregory, Norlander and assistant coach Kevin McPherson.
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | The Christenberry Fieldhouse floor was covered in tables filled with hundreds of friends, family, staff, students and boosters of Augusta (ne State) University athletics. They gathered on Monday night to celebrate a miracle – three miracles actually – performed by the small school’s men’s golf program in the previous 12 years.
Carter Newman was chosen to speak for his teammates who shocked the heavyweights of the collegiate golf world by winning consecutive NCAA men’s golf national championships in 2010 and ’11.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years,” Newman said, “and sometimes it’s hard to believe it ever happened.”
It happened, and it deserves celebrating again. In addition to those back-to-back team titles, Broc Everett won the 2018 NCAA individual championship. Considering Augusta University competes at the Division II level in all sports except golf, it’s a remarkable story. Maybe it’s not tiny Milan High School winning the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship and inspiring the movie “Hoosiers,” but it’s akin to how Johns Hopkins, a Division III athletics program in everything except lacrosse, has been able to compete and win nine NCAA men’s lacrosse titles.
“Never before has a non-Division I school won three championships in Division I golf,” said Nick Evans, an Augusta National member who was the school’s very first scholarship golfer in 1968 and one of its biggest boosters. “David beats Goliath not one, not two, but three times.”
When you consider that there are two power-five conference programs in Division I who have never won a single NCAA team championship in any sport (Virginia Tech and Kansas State), what the Jaguars were able to accomplish in golf is amazing.
“I don’t think I really appreciated it at the time,” said Josh Gregory, who built and coached both championship teams before leaving to take the job at SMU. “I kind of always expected it and I thought it could happen. But looking back 10 years later it took that time to sink in that it was not a dream, it was reality. … Nothing will ever top that, period. Nothing will ever top what we did in 2010 and 2011. It shaped my life.”
Golf is one of those sports where a player’s origin or the size of the program he competes in doesn’t preclude anyone from becoming elite. And Augusta University – in a town that is synonymous to many with golf – has produced an outsized share of current touring professionals including Henrik Norlander, Scott Jamieson and Maverick Antcliff; Ryder Cup participants like Vaughn Taylor and Oliver Wilson; and a Masters champion, Patrick Reed. The Jaguars’ program has often swung above its weight.
“We used underdogs as a rallying cry, but I can guarantee you that they didn’t think they were underdogs,” Gregory said.
“I kind of always expected it and I thought it could happen. But looking back 10 years later it took that time to sink in that it was not a dream, it was reality. … Nothing will ever top that, period. Nothing will ever top what we did in 2010 and 2011. It shaped my life.” – Josh Gregory
They didn’t perform like underdogs. Reed (6-0 in match play) and Norlander (4-2) were the headlining co-stars of those championship teams, but they didn’t win it alone. Newman (5-1), Mitch Krywulcyz (3-3), Taylor Floyd and Olle Bengtsson each played key roles and made critical contributions to winning it all. Newman – a.k.a. Captain Clutch – kept the repeat dream alive with a must-make 30-footer on the 17th hole en route to beating Kevin Tway and toppling favored Oklahoma State in the 2011 semifinals in front of hundreds of orange-clad Cowboys fans on their home course at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Floyd gutted it out through a debilitating stomach bug to inspire the first championship finale and claim a halve in his match. Krywulycz rallied from four down with seven left to clinch the winning point in extra holes in 2010 by beating Tway and he won another essential point in the 2011 championship match against Georgia’s Hudson Swafford.
“It seemed everyone played their roles and took care of the controllables,” Newman said.
Reed was one of only a few players who did not attend Monday’s reunion celebration, though he sent a check that helped the fundraising effort reach $1.32 million for both the men’s and women’s golf programs at Augusta University. But Reed featured prominently in the celebration program. It was his arrival as a transfer in 2009 after being dismissed from Georgia’s team that proved to be the last piece that turned an already good roster with Norlander as its ace into a great lineup with the depth needed to contend with golf’s powerhouses.
The NCAA switched its championships format in 2010 to pare the 30-team field after 54 holes of stroke play down to a final eight. Augusta State knew that if it could reach the match play, it could win regardless of the caliber of the competition with names on their bags such as Georgia Tech, Georgia, Oklahoma State and Florida State.
“If you were a Las Vegas oddsmaker, which team do you think they’d bet would be eliminated first?” asked Dean Newman, Carter’s father who organized Monday’s celebration event.
Reed burnished his match-play credentials by winning every match he played and taking down prominent opponents named Chesson Hadley, Brooks Koepka, Peter Uihlein (twice) and Harris English. His match against English was the decisive point in the Jaguars becoming the first team to repeat as NCAA champions since Houston in 1984-85.
Only a month earlier, Augusta’s travel team lost to a team of its backups in its annual home tournament before the Masters at Forest Hills Golf Club. “Honestly, it woke us up,” Gregory said on Monday.
“Nobody’s won back-to-back national championships since the mid-80’s and I said, ‘Why not us? Somebody has to do it; somebody has to break the streak,’” said Gregory after winning the second.
“These kids probably don’t realize the historical significance, regardless of what sport it is. It’s college golf, maybe it’s not big-time football or basketball, but they just made history and to be able to do that, win back-to-back national championships, and to do it in the fashion they did is remarkable. It’s something I’ve never dreamed of; something I can’t believe just happened to us.”
The players received rings after their team victories. For Monday’s celebration, Augusta University got permission from the NCAA to make miniature replica NCAA Championship trophies and presented them to each member of both teams.
Chris Kane, a former sportscaster at Augusta’s local ABC affiliate who covered those championship runs, summed it up simply.
“Patrick Reed, Henrik Norlander, Mitch Krywulycz, Carter Newman, Taylor Floyd, Olle Bengtsson, Josh Gregory – those seven individuals right there will forever go down as Augusta State legends.”
Then came the recognition for Broc Everett’s individual accomplishment. When he arrived in 2013 from Iowa unheralded on a full academic ride, he was dismayed when coach Jack O’Keefe gave him the news that he’d need to redshirt because his Presidential scholarship was going to count against what he already had on the team. His coach consoled him with a promise to pay for his grad school and “you’ll be better as a 23-year-old fifth-year senior than you will be a 19-year-old true freshman.”
That proved prophetic. Everett not only got his accounting degree and an MBA, he won the individual title on the same Karsten Creek course where the Jaguars team had prevailed in 2011. He’d been honing in on it, finishing third in Augusta’s home tournament, second in the conference tournament, second in the NCAA regional and then first in a one-hole playoff for the individual crown.
“What else is there to say, it was freaking awesome!” said Everett in an emotional address on Monday where he lauded his parents for always supporting him even as they tended to the daily special needs of his brother. Everett has been helping with the current team before he heads off to the Dakotas Tour and tries to earn status on one of the PGA Tour’s developmental tours.
Everett received an NCAA trophy in 2018, but he didn’t get a ring like the team champions. On Monday, Augusta rectified that by presenting him a ring and unveiling a banner for his feat that will take its place in the rafters of the university’s fieldhouse next to the two team title banners.
“This is pretty special right here,” Everett said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
This celebration was also a little bittersweet for the Jaguars. While old teammates reunited to hail successes, the school said goodbye to O’Keefe, who is leaving coaching after his 2021-22 men’s team failed to qualify for the NCAA postseason. It will be up to coach Caroline Hegg and the women’s program this month to try to build on the school’s championship legacy.
“This is representative of the sacrifice it takes to be great,” Hegg said of the evening’s honorees.
As liberal new collegiate transfer policies and NIL start to take root, it only gets tougher for small programs such as Augusta University to try to compete with better-funded schools like Georgia and Oklahoma State infused with power conference advantages.
Even with a first-class golf house and a Forest Hills course at their daily disposal as well as an identity like “Augusta” on its golf bags, it’s hard to sustain excellence in this modern collegiate climate. That’s why nights like Monday and the fundraising it sparked are so important for Augusta to try to pull off another miracle.
Gregory had a message that could resonate with future Jaguars trying to rekindle the Augusta University legacy.
“As I learned, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” he said. “I wish we could run it back.”
For one glorious night, they did.
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