By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Battle Creek, Mich.---The No. 6 Owens Community College men's golf team fell two strokes short in its bid for a third consecutive Region XII championship at Bedford Valley Golf Club today, but Harrison Long (Wilnecote/Tamworth, U.K.) made sure Owens still qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II National Tournament.
Long topped all golfers with an even par 216 for the tournament, edging out Zach Bialik of Grand Rapids by three strokes for medalist honors, which also gives Long Region XII Player of the Year honors.
As a team, Owens finished the two-day, three-round tournament with scores of 299-298-307--904 (+40) to finish two strokes behind Grand Rapids Community College (295-301-306--902). Oakland Community College finished third with scores of 301-305-301--907.
The tournament's top two teams advance to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament in Scottsboro, Ala. May 19-22. All action will take place at Goose Pond Colony Golf Course.
Assisting Long and the Owens effort was Dominic DiGiacomo (Ocean City/Ocean City, N.J.), who shot a 73-76-78--227 (+11) to finish in ninth place individually, which earned him All-Region XII honors.
Philippe Weppernig (Luzern, Switzerland) finished with the third lowest score for Owens. The sophomore shot a 77-75-78--230 (+14) to tie for 15th place. Christian Bienaime (Lake Brantley/Altamonte Springs, Fla.) added an 81-79-75--235 (+19) for a 23rd place tie, while Wyatt Spalding (Summerfield/Petersburg, Mich.) shot a 77-83-83--243 (+27) for a 35th place finish.
In addition to Owens and Grand Rapids making the tournament as a team, Tyler Lewis (Mott), Joel Maire (Muskegon), Garrett Freismuth (Wayne County), Michael Gaulin (Oakland), Austin Sereno (Oakland) also qualified for the national tournament as individuals. Freismuth, Gaulin and Sereno each won playoffs to qualify.
Despite falling just short in its bid for a third straight Region XII championship, Owens advances to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament for the third consecutive year. The program becomes the first sport at Owens to make three straight national tournament appearances since women's volleyball from 1998-2000. They are the first Owens program to make nationals three straight years at the NJCAA Division II level since men's basketball from 1992-93.
Long's Region XII Player of the Year finish marks the third straight year an Owens golfer has won the honor. Two years ago, Walter Dorosh won a one-hole playoff with teammate Brandon Hoelzer for the title before Hoelzer won the award last year.
In 2013, Owens finished 10th at the national tournament, which was held also held at Goose Pond. Last year, the team finished fifth at the tournament, which was held in Plymouth, Ind. It was the program's best ever finish at nationals.
This year's tournament will also mark the fifth national tournament appearance for Owens as a team. They finished 14th in 2006, 10th in 2008, 10th in 2013 and 5th in 2014. Individually, Joey Bussdieker finished 15th in 2007, Jimmy Bell finished 29th in 2009 and Luke Berger finished 30th in 2012. Thus, this will be the eighth time in the past 10 years that Owens has either had an individual qualify or qualified as a team for nationals.