Hawk Nation, it’s time to give it up for your IUP men’s golf team. For the second time this semester, an IUP athletics has come away with the gold.
IUP golf showed out this weekend at the Hershey Country Club and won its second-consecutive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship. Not only is this the team’s second straight title, but this also caps a historic run with 30 PSAC titles.
IUP entered Saturday four strokes back of Mercyhurst after shooting a 20-over 304 on Friday. The Lakers shot a 21-over 304 Saturday, eight strokes worse than IUP.
The Crimson Hawks surged back in Saturday's second round, shooting a tournament-best 297 to beat Mercyhurst and win by an impressive four strokes. IUP finished the tournament with a 33-over 601. Mercyhurst trailed at 37-over 605.
The Crimson Hawks finished the tournament with all five golfers in their lineup among the top-11 on the final leaderboard. Nicholas Ward (junior, marketing) stood out, coming in fourth overall with a seven-over 149.
His second round was the best of any IUP golfer during the tournament, shooting a one-over 72, including three birdies on the back nine.
Shaun Fedor (sophomore, marketing) and Jeremy Eckenrode (grad student, business) tied for fifth with a nine-over 151. Jack Buccigross (junior, marketing) and Richie Kline (sophomore, finance) came in not far behind, tied for ninth with an 11-over 153.
The Hawks’ performance is even more impressive when you consider some of their early-season struggles, like the disappointing fourth-place finish in The Trojan invitational.
“We didn't perform exactly like we wanted to earlier in the season, but it's great to be able to put it all together now and come away with a win at PSAC's,” Eckenrode said. “This was one of our team goals at the beginning of the year, but we still have a few things to accomplish moving forward this season.”
“We definitely struggled at the beginning of the year, but we are a lot more comfortable with our games now, and we really like the courses we will be playing from here on out,” Fedor said. “We will try our best to peak at regionals to try and accomplish our season goal which is of course to get to nationals.”
IUP is a cut above the rest of the PSAC with 30 titles. Slippery Rock has 14, Clarion eight, West Chester five and Millersville four, with four other schools winning one each.
This tournament gave the players a chance to really be a part of the program’s illustrious history of winning.
“It means a lot to be a part of a program with so much history and success,” said Eckenrode. “It's one of the reasons I decided to come to IUP, and I am fortunate to have been on four PSAC championship teams in five years, and each one is so special.”
“It feels special to be a part of a team capable of so much,” Fedor said. “It definitely helps motivate us knowing that we've had such a rich history of success. Coach Braun does so much for us: He gathers data for the courses we are about to play; he works with us on our games and makes sure we are in a good place mentally as well. He is the reason why this group will accomplish so much.
“I believe we can accomplish all of our goals knowing that we have the great coach we do.”
This is the second straight conference crown for head coach Dan Braun. He has found a way to prepare this squad for the adversity even though he has not had a full season in his two-year tenure due to COVID-19 cancellations.
This was IUP's fourth title in the last five seasons. The Crimson Hawks have been dominant during the past 20 years with 13 championships since 2000.
Because of their dominant performance in the conference championship Saturday at Hershey, the Hawks have received an automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Division II Atlantic/East Region Championships.
The berth marks a record 24th straight NCAA regional bid for the PSAC champions.
The Atlantic/East Region Championships take place May 6–8 at the Lake View Country Club in North East. The top four teams at the end of the three rounds will advance to play in the NCAA Division II Championships at the PGA National Resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, May 17–19.