Darton sophomore Joe Sakulpolphaisan of Thailand holds his trophy for winning low medalist at the Titan Winter Invitational. (Bill Jones III/Special to The Herald)
MELBOURNE, Fla. — Darton’s Joe Sakulpolphaisan walked off the course Tuesday not sure if his final-round 70 was low enough.
Hours later he was riding home with his second collegiate trophy.
Sakulpolphaisan’s victory was one of the few bright spots for the No. 7 nationally ranked Cavs, who shot a dismal 899 in the three-round tourney and finished 24 shots behind winner Brevard Community College. Darton finished in sixth.
It was a disappointing end to the 2012 spring opener for Darton in the Titan Winter Invitational, but Cavs coach Bill Jones III said Sakulpolphaisan’s victory at 5-under was just an example of how much the sophomore from Thailand has matured in his two years at Darton.
“He didn’t have a great fall semester even though he finished ranked ninth in the country. He didn’t play that well,” Jones said. “This week we just kept telling him to be a little more mature out there and make better decisions and not let bad shots or bad swings get in his head. He came out and had a really good week.”
Sakulpolphaisan opened the tournament with a one-over 73 but then stormed back in the second round with a four-under 68 to put him in second place heading into the final day. He finished with two birdies in the final six holes Tuesday to win by two shots.
“I hit the ball really good,” said Sakulpolphaisan, who finished fourth at the tournament last year and was one shot out of a playoff. “I wasn’t sure if I had won, but I was happy with the way I played.”
Jones also wasn’t sure Sakulpolphaisan had gone low enough on a final day when several golfers in the 14-team field were playing well.
“We thought he had to shoot about one to three shots better,” Jones said. “We were just telling him how proud we were of him for finishing strong and that no matter what happened he should be proud of himself. Then the scores started to come in, and he had a two-shot cushion.”
Darton sophomore Shad Tuten opened up the tournament with a 69 but then shot a pair of 76s, while the Cavs didn’t get much help with their bottom three golfers. Robert Robertson closed with a 79 to finish 20-over, Chase Jones shot an 80 to finish 18-over and Austin McNeill shot an 85 to finish 24-over.
“That’s where you win and lose golf tournaments,” Bill Jones said. “Brevard didn’t have a single player in the Top 5. That shows you that one person can’t win the golf tournament no matter who you are.”
The Cavs next play Monday in the Coastal Georgia Men’s Winter Invitational at St. Simons Island, and Jones — who is in his first full season as head coach — is looking for a dramatic turnaround after Tuesday’s finish.
“We are all very disappointed in our play. We were playing well coming into it,” Jones said. “I thought they could win or contend for the title. If we didn’t win, we didn’t expect to finish in sixth place.”