The 2016 season ended in celebration for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s golf team, as they outlasted the competition to win the first NCAA Division III Championship in program history. In 2017, the team faced adversity all season, despite a potentially deeper and more talented squad, as they dealt with players missing in the fall, injuries off the course, and inconsistent play in tournaments.
However, the SCIAC season concluded with more joy for the Stags, as they came back from a deficit to win the 16th conference championship in team history and clinch an automatic berth into this season’s NCAA championships.
Coming into the three-day championships, CMS trailed the University of La Verne Leopards by eight strokes at 1192 compared to the Leopards’ 1184. The Stags took control of the matchup on Monday, April 24, the second day of the championships. The comeback, which cut the eight-stroke deficit to four and gave the Stags a four-stroke lead before the final round, was spearheaded by Jonathan Shaw CM ’18 and Johnny Brandt CM '18. Both juniors shot superb rounds of 71.
Shaw credited the team’s ability to battle through nerves to the fact that the team had “been in high-pressure situations last year” in the SCIAC and NCAA championships.
After closing in on the conference title on Monday, the Stags did not take their feet off the gas. The team put together a second consecutive very impressive round to finish the season at 2063 strokes, ten fewer than the Leopards. Counting only the rounds shot during the Championships, the team finished eleven strokes better than their closest competition, University of Redlands.
During the final round, almost the entire CMS team played well, with four golfers shooting below par and Shaw and Brandt continuing their strong play. Alex Wrenn CM '19 shot a 70, as did Matt Shuman CM ‘18 and Harrison Brenner CM ’20. They were joined in shooting under a 72 by Austin Long CM ‘20, who played a solid round and finished with a 71.
For the championship, Shaw shot a 216, tied for first in the entire tournament. Shaw actually had a one-stroke lead heading into the championship’s final hole, but California Lutheran’s Nate Gray made a brilliant putt for eagle giving him a slight lead.
Shaw responded with a birdie putt to clinch a share of the individual title. Shaw said that the team had displayed this resilience all year, and that since “golf is such a mental game, probably more so than any other sport,” they could use this trait to take them to the title.
The Stags will next look to defend their national championship, beginning on May 16 at the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.