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Shorthanded Sam Houston State, down best player, makes history in Stillwater

Sam Houston State head coach Brandt Kieschnick had one message for his gamers Tuesday morning earlier than a very powerful spherical of their season: Let’s write ourselves the story of the yr.

Just hours earlier, the Bearkats acquired crushing information that fifth-year senior Will Holcomb, their best participant who was second individually by 36 holes of the NCAA Stillwater Regional, could be compelled to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols and his crew, in sixth and oh so near a landmark national-championship berth, must play the ultimate spherical with simply 4 gamers.

But the remaining Bearkats didn’t fold; they introduced their pens.

Without the luxurious of a drop rating, Sam Houston State didn’t rely something worse than 76 round an always-demanding Karsten Creek format and shot 7-over 295 to qualify for this system’s first NCAA Championship.

“What happened today was meant to be,” mentioned Kieschnick, who had his Nos. 3-5 gamers every card closing 73s because the Bearkats end fourth at 11 over, 4 pictures away from fifth-place Little Rock, which made 5 birdies on its last gap to additionally safe its first NCAA Championship look.

“My message to these guys this morning – and my faith comes in here – I said, ‘Listen, I don’t know why this has happened. This is bad, but something good can come out of this. Someone is watching over us and I believe – I don’t know if it’s now, six months from now or a year – something good’s going to come out of this. Let’s go write a pretty cool story.’”

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Here’s the way it started: After a grueling 36-hole day, Kieschnick and his crew underwent necessary testing Monday evening. One of the assessments got here again constructive, that of Jack Randle, Sam Houston State’s sixth man and Holcomb’s roommate this week. Holcomb subsequently examined detrimental, however below NCAA contact-tracing guidelines, he wouldn’t be permitted to tee it up Tuesday, even solo.

After an evening of deliberation the NCAA confirmed their resolution, and Kieschnick broke the information to Holcomb early Tuesday morning. It was particularly heartbreaking for a participant who as a sophomore as soon as performed a whole fall semester in a strolling boot after breaking his proper foot through the evening of his wedding ceremony.

“He’s one of the toughest kids in golf, one of the best competitors,” Kieschnick mentioned. “He’s a guy that rises to the occasion, the bigger the event, the better he plays.”

Instead of competing, although, the Bearkats’ affable, mullet-donning chief from Crockett, Texas, was quarantined in his lodge room. Before the shorthanded crew left for the course, Kieschnick gathered his remaining gamers in the car parking zone as Holcomb, standing in the window of his second-story room and searching down at his teammates, delivered some inspiration over the cellphone: “Guys, this can’t be it.”

With Holcomb’s eyes glued to stay scoring again on the lodge, Kieschnick and his assistant coach Tommy Chain fought again tears all day as they watched their competing gamers pull off the miraculous: up-and-downs from 100 yards, chip-in bogeys, 20-foot par saves.

“We were trying not to let the guys see us cry because they were playing so hard,” Kieschnick mentioned.

Finally, because the 4 Bearkats started making their means up the ultimate gap, the par-5 ninth, Kieschnick’s cellphone buzzed. It was Holcomb: Chill out, Coach. We’re fantastic.

When Paul Chaplet’s ball, with “JW” written on it for Jack and Will, dropped for par on the ninth, it didn’t simply solidify Sam Houston State’s place inside the highest 5 together with Little Rock, SMU, Illinois and winner Oklahoma State, and punch the Bearkats’ ticket to Grayhawk. It additionally saved Holcomb’s school profession alive. (Kieschnick added that he expects his star to be cleared in time for subsequent Friday’s first spherical in Scottsdale, Arizona.)

Back on the lodge, Holcomb, who a yr in the past had debated even returning to high school for an additional season, took to social media to precise his sheer pleasure.

“I just want to thank them so much for the greatest-fought rounds of their lives today at one of the hardest golf courses in the nation,” Holcomb mentioned by way of Instagram Live, earlier than screaming, “and we’re going to the natty because my boys, baby! Let’s go! We going! They had my back!”

It had already been a particular season for the 49th-ranked Bearkats, who’ve but to complete worse than fifth after beginning their season in January. They closed their common season with two wins in their final three occasions, together with a 3rd straight victory on the Southland Conference Championship, the place Chaplet medaled. They grabbed a program-best No. 8 seed for regionals earlier than making extra history.

And most significantly, they’d dodged the coronavirus all season – that’s till Monday, when Sam Houston State almost had one other golf program’s season finish out of the blue for the second straight week.

Kieschnick additionally coaches the varsity’s ladies’s crew, which capped its season in heartbreaking trend final Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after inclement climate and poor course situations saved a single shot from being hit. The Bearkat ladies have been eradicated after the NCAA dominated to advance the highest six seeds to nationals.

“Last week was pretty tough, and then last night, I was like, Oh, no, here we go again,” Kieschnick mentioned, “but as low as I was 24 hours ago, now it’s complete elation and joy. Our girls and guys are really close, so part of the motivation this week with the guys was the girls. They were like, ‘Do it for us.’”

The scrappy Bearkats did it, for the ladies’s crew and for his or her chief, Holcomb. They wrote one heck of a narrative. And the best half? It’s not completed but.

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