GASTONIA, N.C. – Charleston Southern's Austin James and Jacques Wilson each recorded under-par final rounds to tie for 17th place at the Gary Koch Invitational on Tuesday. The duo finished at one-under for the tournament to pace CSU to a solid eighth-place showing at Gaston Country Club.
James posted a two-under 70, while Wilson put together a clean round with just one bogey en route to a 71. Art Griffin and Jake Ezell chipped in totals of 75 and 76 for CSU's other counted scores as the Bucs rounded out their 54 holes at +15, just eight strokes behind Kentucky and ten back of No. 13 Virginia.
Auburn cruised to the team title with a one-under par third round. The Tigers -18 tally was ten strokes better than North Carolina State, the round one leader. Auburn's Trace Crow carded his second consecutive 66 to win the individual championship at -9. N.C. State's Jacob McBride earned runner-up honors at -7.
The Bucs' steady performance (294-293-292 (879)) came at an ideal time in their final tune-up for the Big South Conference Championship. CSU, led by Director of Golf Todd Selders, will bid for the league title from April 21-23. The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals.
"It was probably one of our better tournaments of the year," Selders said. "We were pretty consistent and it was definitely a good step forward to getting ready for conference play. The guys know they still need to step it up and have a good week and a half of practice to be ready to compete like we feel like we can."
James, the defending Big South champion and a focal point of CSU's back-to-back regional appearances, played some of his sharpest golf of the campaign at the Koch. He eliminated mistakes in his final round, going one-under on each side. James started his day with a birdie at the par-five first and capped it with another at the closing 18th. The Canadian recorded scores of 72 and 73 on day one, enabling him to finish in the top-fifth of a strong field featuring players from three top-40 programs.
Wilson also performed steadily on Tuesday, as the junior transfer posted nine consecutive pars to start the round. He then dipped into red numbers with birdies at No. 10 and No. 12. His only miscue came with a bogey at the difficult par-four 16th.
"I like the idea that Austin and Jacques are both coming along and giving us a good 1-2 combo," Selders added. "It's making us a lot more competitive and I know the other guys will bring it at conference as well. We seem to be peaking at the right time and hopefully can continue to improve here in the next week and a half."
Ezell (73-75-76 (+8)) was CSU's other top finisher, placing T-49th. He struggled to a five-over 41 going out but showed resolve with a one-under 35 on his final nine. Like James, the Texan capped his effort with a birdie at No. 18.
Griffin was not at his best but still managed a 75. He rolled in two birdies on the front nine to go out in even par, but had three bogeys and no birdies on the back side.
David Eller rounded out his tournament with an 80.
CSU bested Gardner-Webb, the only other Big South team in the field, by nine shots.