HOLLISTER, Calif. -- Ben Geyer became the fourth Gael to earn medalist honors and the Saint Mary's golf team won its first-ever West Coast Conference championship today with a dramatic performance at San Juan Oaks Golf Club.
Saint Mary's registered the fourth-best 54-hole team score in school history with a 20-under par 844 after rounds of 274-287-283. The Gaels finished nine strokes ahead of second-place San Francisco and 22 strokes ahead of third-place BYU.
"I started as a player in 1994 and I've been trying to win this tournament ever since," said SMC head coach Scott Hardy. "We've been close, but haven't been able to pull it off. It is something I've been trying to accomplish for a long time. They key was really being patient, especially with the good start.
The Gaels jumped out to a first day lead with an eye-popping 14-under par 274. After shooting a 1-under 287 yesterday, they rebounded with the day's best round - a 5-under par 283.
Saint Mary's held off a late charge by San Francisco, allowing its lead to slip to just three strokes with four golfers left on the course. The team finished strong, while USF faltered and the Gaels picked-up six strokes in the final three holes to provide the final margin of victory.
Prior to today's victory, Saint Mary's had finished as the tournament's runner-up on three previous occcasions - in 2008 (tie), 2005 and 2004. Last season, the Gaels finished fourth overall.
Geyer, a native of Arbuckle, Calif. won his first college event and became the first Gael to win the league title outright since Joe Lanza in 2005. He fired rounds of 69-72-66 for a 9-under par 207. He drained a long birdie putt on the final hole of the tournament to clinch the 1-stroke victory over San Diego's Alex Ching. Both players carded final rounds of 6-under 66.
"Ben is amazing," said Hardy. "He was a walk-on to our team and he has played himself into one of the best players in the conference and a top college player. The way he played last summer gave him a lot of confidence. He knows he can win. To go out there and shoot that score today... 66 is a great score on any course, let alone this course. This course is really tough."
"It feels amazing, not only to win the WCC Championship but to also get my first collegiate win," said Geyer, who was the team's top finisher with a 10th place tie last year. "It was nice to get that monkey off my back. I really approached today by just focusing on one shot at a time."
Senior Anders Engell finished in a tie for fifth place after rounds of 71-70-71 for a 3-round total of 4-under par 212. Freshman Jonathan De Los Reyes led the tournament for the first two days and finished in ninth place overall with rounds of 65-73-76 for a 2-under 214.
"Winning the team championship is better than winning individually, that's for sure," said Geyer. "I know how much it means to Coach Hardy personally. To finally get it done was really special and I know he was just stoked."
West Coast Conference Championships
San Juan Oaks Golf Club, Hollister, Calif.
Par 72, 6712 yards
Fin. Team Scores Total Par
1 Saint Mary's (CA).............. 274 287 283 844 -20
2 San Francisco.................. 289 278 286 853 -11
3 BYU............................ 290 286 290 866 +2
4 Gonzaga........................ 288 292 287 867 +3
5 San Diego...................... 297 284 287 868 +4
6 Loyola Marymount............... 302 286 297 885 +21
7 Pepperdine..................... 295 296 297 888 +24
8 Santa Clara.................... 295 311 296 902 +38
Fin. Player Scores Total Par
1 Ben Geyer............ 69 72 66 207 -9
t 6 Anders Engell........ 71 70 71 212 -4
9 J. De Los Reyes...... 65 73 76 214 -2
t 12 Eric Grimberg........ 69 78 70 217 +1
t 28 Mac McClung.......... 77 72 76 225 +9