After staying on top of the leaderboard throughout the first two days of the tournament, The University of Memphis men's golf team sealed its first Conference USA title in yesterday's final round of the C-USA championships in Texarkana, Ark.
The No. 40 Tigers, led by a second-place individual performance by senior Jack Belote in the final round, survived a challenge from No. 23 Central Florida to leave Texarkana Country Club as conference champions.
Memphis surged through the competition in opening round on Sunday finishing eight strokes ahead of seventh-place UCF. Belote shot a 68 (-4) to finish the day tied for first while last year's overall tournament-leader Jonathan Fly contributed three birdies and an eagle for the Tigers.
"The guys played really well (Sunday) and really finished strong, going seven under on the last three holes," Memphis head coach Grant Robbins said of the team's opening-day performance.
Despite facing a climb in the rankings by UCF, The U of M continued to lead during Monday's second round. Belote continued to lead the Tigers individually with a round score of 71 (-1). Sophomore Will Pearson made a splash on the leaderboard, advancing to the 25th spot following a round score of one under par.
Memphis entered yesterday's final round with a three-stroke lead over UCF. After picking up an eagle on the second hole, Belote climbed to first on the individual leader board to help the Tigers extend their lead over UCF. A late afternoon charge from the Knights narrowed Memphis' lead back down to two, but the Tigers held on to win the championship.
After a rally on the final two holes by UCF's Greg Eason, Belote dropped to second to finish the tournament as individual runner-up. Fly earned a top five finish after shooting an even par yesterday, while Pearson and Grant Milner ended their three-day run in the top 25.
The victory marks the first C-USA championship for the Tigers, and snaps UCF's three-year conference tournament winning streak. Belote is the second-straight Tiger to end the tournament in the top three, as Fly finished in the No.1 spot to help the team take second place in last year's tournament.
As a result of the win, the Tigers will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament, which is set to begin on May 17. In Memphis' last NCAA postseason appearance in 2011, The U of M finished 11th overall in the Central Regional tournament in Zionsville, Ind.