NINETY SIX, S.C. – Charleston Southern junior Jacques Wilson placed sixth to lead the Bucs to a fourth-place showing at the Big South Championship on Saturday at The Patriot at Grand Harbor. Jake Ezell finished tied for 11th and Austin James and Art Griffin also finished in the top-20 as CSU recorded an even par 54-hole tally.
CSU entered the day in contention for a fourth consecutive top-three finish in the event and within shouting distance of clubhouse leader Campbell. The Fighting Camels pulled away, though, en route to a tournament record 26-under par composite score. The title earns Campbell the Big South's automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals. Liberty was runner-up at -19. Gardner-Webb finished at -5 to hold off CSU by five strokes and take third.
Campbell's Jesper Svensson broke the championship's individual record with a 54-hole effort of 14-under par. Svensson fired a second round six-under par 66, highlighted by a 29 on the front nine, to distance himself from the field and best PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson's previous mark by two shots. He finished six shots clear of teammate Thomas LaMorte and Liberty's Kieran Vincent, who tied for second.
Wilson fired back-to-back 70's before closing with a level par 72 to pace CSU. He finished just two shots outside of the top-five in the 45-player field. His morning 70, along with James's 71, powered the Bucs to their best round of the tourney, a two-under 286. Wilson, James and Griffin all carded 72's in the final round, while Ezell posted a 73. CSU struck the ball well for much of the day but could not make enough putts to bump up to third.
CSU Director of Golf Todd Selders was pleased to see his team play some of its best golf at the end of the season.
"I'm pretty proud of them and I'm gonna let them know that on the way home," Selders said afterward. "We played our best golf of the year at this tournament and you can't ask for anything better than that. They're still kind of disappointed with where they ended up. Some are disappointed they didn't finish in the top-ten so that's good and that's something we're gonna build on for next season."
Wilson, a transfer from Kansas, made the most of his first foray at The Patriot. He birdied two of his final four holes of round two and was one under through seven in the third round. Wilson lurked around the top-five throughout, capping a strong first year at CSU.
"I felt like I did a lot of things right," Wilson said. "It was a little frustrating this afternoon not to make any putts. It would have been nice to finish top-five but overall, I'm pretty happy with how I finished."
"I think we were a couple of shots, from everybody, outside of finishing in that top-three," Wilson continued. "I know Austin had it going both rounds, Jake did what he does and it was kind of the same for me. If a couple of guys make some more putts and we do some things a little differently, we could have been top-three but that's golf."
Ezell started his third round in eventful fashion, bogeying the par-three seventh before rolling in birdies at eight, nine and ten to surge to three-under and into the top-ten. He played mostly steady golf the rest of the way before finishing with back-to-back bogeys. Ezell, who will graduate this May and forego his final season of eligibility, was named to the Big South All-Academic team at the post-tourney awards ceremony. The communications major holds a 3.56 GPA.
"He did a lot for this program, and the program in the past before I even got here," Selders said. "Great kid – he's gonna have a great future in this game and I'm just looking forward to seeing him somewhere in the future, playing for money."
James, the defending champion and Big South Player of the Year, was a few mistakes away from recording a third top-ten finish in four years. He was four under through 11 holes in his final round but was undone by three straight bogeys at numbers two through four. In round two, James had a double bogey at five and a triple at seven foil what could have been a round in the 60's.
"He had some really good stretches," Selders said. "I know he's disappointed in this tournament but he's had a great career. He's gonna leave CSU having set school records and that's something to hang your hat on."
Griffin played his 36 holes Saturday in one-under par to rise up the ranks into a tie for 16th. Following a double bogey at the 17th in his final round, Griffin went three-under over the final nine holes.
Derrick Villarreal posted rounds of 75 and 78 on Saturday. He went out in one-under 35 in the second round to highlight his day.