After rough final day, Darton golf finishes 5th at nationals

Darton golf coach Bill Jones III was less than pleased with the Cavs' final round at national Friday: a 26-over, 314 --- their worst of the four-day tournament in Kansas.

Darton golf coach Bill Jones III was less than pleased with the Cavs' final round at national Friday: a 26-over, 314 --- their worst of the four-day tournament in Kansas.

NEWTON, Kan. — Just like his predecessor Dale Dover, recently anointed Darton College men’s golf coach Bill Jones III didn’t mince words when describing Darton’s four days at NJCAA nationals — and specifically the Cavs’ final round — on Friday.

“It was probably the worst, most frustrating day of golf I’ve ever seen in my life. Worst putting, worst scoring — just the worst everything,” said Jones, taking a page out of former longtime coach Dover’s playbook from the days when Dover would rip into his team after a dismal round as quickly as he would praise them following a good one. “We were pulling wrong clubs, hitting the balls in spots we couldn’t get out of — it was just awful, awful golf. There’s really not much else to say.”

The Cavs, who started the final round in fifth place, ended there Friday to keep their streak of Top 5 finishes alive.

But even that left Jones a little salty.

“Well, (our rival) Meridan came back and beat us by three shots, so we should’ve been fourth,” he said. “So that really (ticked) me off, too.”

As a team, Darton — needing the round of the year to even have a chance to catch eventual winner Indian Hills, which led wire-to-wire — instead posted its worst of the four-day tournament: a 26-over, 314 in conditions Jones said may have been the worst he’s ever seen on a golf course.

Then again, as the saying goes ...

“Every team had to fight the same conditions,” Jones said. “No excuses.”

Maybe the most disappointing result, however, was the final round of sophomore Austin McNeill, who came into Friday one shot off the overall lead but simply imploded.

McNeill shot a 17-over — yes, an 89 on the Par 72 course — to plummet from a tie for fourth to finish tied for 24th.

Had McNeill — who went 71-71-74 before Friday’s blowup — shot anything close to what he was capable of, Darton easily could’ve finished fourth or better.

“(Being that close to winning a national title) was definitely on his mind coming into the round. It had to be,” said Jones when asked about what went wrong between McNeill’s ear during the final round. “He was thinking too much about it, and as a result he had the worst putting round I’ve ever seen him have. And it’s a shame, because he had a great tournament otherwise.”

Jones said McNeill likely won’t pursue golf at the next level after this season and will enroll at Valdosta State to finish his degree, while McNeill’s two other fellow sophomores — Joe Sakulpolphaisan and Shad Tuten, who represented Darton’s best finishers this week (tied for 11th, earning them All-American Honorable Mentions) — are headed for Division I programs.

Sakulpolphaisan (6-over on Day 4) is headed to Mississippi State, while Tuten (2-over on Friday) will play for Armstrong Atlantic. Darton’s other two golfers who made the trip, freshmen Chase Jones and Neil Graham, both shot 81s on Friday, giving Jones some hope that the experience will pave the way for a better finish in 2013.

“It was good for Chase and Neil to get the experience and see what it will take to win,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and next year’s nationals, and all we can do is get back to work and try to bring home another national title.”

Darton won NJCAA Division II national titles from 2005-07, but it has struggled to capture another since moving to Division I three years ago.

“It’s hard to be mad at (my team). It wasn’t like they weren’t trying,” Jones said. “It’s just really frustrating to watch a bunch of teams we know we can beat finish ahead of you. But that’s what happens when you make bad decisions and careless mistakes.”