The National Collegiate Club Golf Association never had seen Grand Canyon University in a national championship tournament until this weekend.
The national club golf scene knows all about the Lopes now.
GCU is the national runner-up after finishing two strokes behind champion Georgia in this weekend’s NCCGA National Championship at Hot Springs Golf and Country Club in Arkansas.
The Lopes entered the 32-club tournament as the nation’s fourth-ranked team, trailed the leader by one stroke after Saturday’s first round and finished at 760 to squeeze between Georgia (758) and third-place Florida (761). Oklahoma State (771) and Alabama (772) finished in fourth place and fifth place, respectively.
“I felt really comfortable heading into the tournament,” GCU club golf coach John Wasson said. “Looking back at past national championship score, it looked like we really had a good chance to be competitive. The guys played well but we were just a little bit outdone by a better opponent.”
GCU nearly won a national title in its national tournament debut with Lopes senior Zach Capel leading the effort. On the strength of a Saturday round of 69, Capel tied for fifth place individually in the tournament at 2-over for the two-round event. He entered the tourney ranked 35th in the nation. Missouri’s Dillon Eaton topped the field at 3-under to win the NCCGA red jacket.
GCU junior Joey Russo tied for 21st at 8-over with sophomore teammate Cole Anderson one stroke behind him for a 30th-place tie. Freshman Grant Sandberg, sophomore Will McMahon, senior Joe Knight, junior Tristan Koyl and senior Jordan Yamamoto also each contributed to at least one of GCU’s team round scores.
“Everybody is really disappointed but they’re also very proud of themselves being that this is their first attempt at a nationals final as a team,” Wasson said. “We are very confident that we will be contenders in future national championships.”