Led by individual national champion Josh Gibson and a birdie-filled back nine, the Hope College men’s golf team capped off its best team finish at the NCAA Division III Championships.
The Flying Dutchmen totaled 12 birdies over their combined final 45 holes to card a tournament-low 291 round and secure a sixth-place finish in the nation on Friday in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.
Gibson claimed Hope’s first individual national championship in golf after winning a one-hole playoff against Wittenberg’s Garrett Brickley.
The sophomore from Grandville, Michigan (Grandville HS) went 1-under for the 72-hole,
four-day tournament at Mission Inn Resort. He shot a 5-under-67 during the final round.
The Flying Dutchmen, coached by Bob Ebels, finished as a team at 42-over-par with a total stroke count of 1,194.
The Flying Dutchmen surpassed their previous top finish at nationals of a ninth-place tie in 2010 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
"The results were from all the hard work we put in throughout the season and the summer," Gibson said. "We all worked hard on our games. It was awesome to see it finally come together."
Hope scored lower in every round throughout the week (306-299-298-291).
“They got better every day,” head coach Bob Ebels said. “A lot of that had to do with, as the days passed, they felt more confident that they belonged. “They were the best prepared team there and equally as skilled as any team in the tournament. As the week went on, there were no doubts. They said, ‘Why not Hope?’
“They were being rewarded for all the work they put in.”
Gibson and senior Winton Munch of Traverse City, Michigan (Central) led Friday’s charge with five and four birdies, respectively, after making the turn.
Gibson’s 67 was the lowest round among all golfers Friday.
Gibson opened by eagling the 505-yard, par-5 first hole. He birdied five holes on the back nine, including the 437-yard, par-4 18th hole, to go 4-under after the turn.
Gibson set a school record with a 71.75 average for the entire tournament.
The previous lowest 72-hole scoring average for a Flying Dutchmen golfer at nationals was 74.3 by Steven Strock in 2010. He finished 20th.
The previous highest finish for a Flying Dutchmen golfer at nationals was 15th by Tommy Yamaoka in 2007.
Munch finished at even-par on Friday. He collected four birdies on the back nine, including the 18th hole, to go 2-under after the turn.
Munch tied for 24th at 10-over-par. He recorded a 74.5 average for the tournament.
Junior Kade Hoeksema of Byron Center, Michigan (South Christian) chipped in a 75. He birdied the 540-yard, par-5 10th hole then finished out with eight pars.
Hoeksema placed 29th at 11-over. He had a 74.75 average over 72 holes.
Sophomore Andrew Goble of Brighton, Michigan (Brighton) rounded out Hope’s scoring on Friday with a 77. He birdied the 554-yard, par-5 17th to go even-par on the back nine.
Sophomore Ben Kramer of Spring Lake, Michigan (Spring Lake) shot an 80. He also birdied the 17th hole to go 1-over after the turn.
Wittenberg won the national title after checking in at 28-over par for the tournament.
Guilford (+30) took second and was followed by Tyler-Texas (+36), Huntingdon (+38) and Greensboro (+38).
Photo credit: Allen Tedder Photography