Members of the Darton State College golf team, from left, Seth Sanders, Taylor Martin, Jake O’Bryan, head coach Dale Dover, assistant coach Gary Hilton, Tae Kim and Madison Turner pose with their awards after winning the Region XVII golf tournament on Sunday. (Special Photo)
FORT GAINES — The rain was relentless on Sunday, flooding Meadow Links Golf Course and washing away the final round of the Region XVII golf tournament.
As it turns out, Darton State College’s streak of tournament championships is unsinkable.
Thanks to a strong second round Saturday that propelled the Cavs into first place in the tournament, Darton hung on for its 13th straight Region XVII title — despite Sunday’s third and final round being cancelled because of rain and severe weather.
“It was an honor to win it again and keep the streak alive,” Darton freshman Jake O’Bryan said. “I was confident in myself and my teammates that we would accomplish it. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t keep this streak going.”
Coaches of the four competing junior college teams had a pre-tournament agreement that if weather cancelled Sunday’s round then the two-day, 54-hole scores from Friday and Saturday would stand.
Darton entered Saturday’s round trailing host Andrew College by a stroke, but the Cavs shot a 6-over 294 in the second round to claim the lead. They ultimately finished the tournament at 15-over — seven shots in front of ABAC and 10 shots ahead of Andrew College. Georgia Military College finished a distant fourth with an 83-over 659.
O’Bryan believed a third round would have only extended the Cavs’ lead.
“I have a feeling we would have stretched out the lead,” he said. “We were the better team coming in, and we had momentum. I figure we would have played better and won by an even larger margin.”
The Cavs haven’t lost a region tournament since 2002, and Dale Dover is perfect as a head coach since taking over the program in 2004.
“It’s been a pretty good ride,” Dover said. “It’s very important to these kids that they can say they won the Georgia state championship. The streak speaks so much to how hard the program has worked.”
Andrew College’s Andreas Tancred posted an opening-round 69 and despite a second-round 76 maintained his individual lead and was the region medalist.
Also earning All-Region honors were Darton’s Tae Kim (73-73), ABAC’s Chris Rogers (71-77), ABAC’s Lee Wright (73-75), O’Bryan (78-71) and Darton’s Madison Turner (74-75).
The Cavs woke up at 6 a.m. Sunday fully prepared for a final round and drove to the course as the rain pelted the team’s van.
“We drove over in the rain and talked about how it was going to be a tough day and how everybody needed to have mental toughness because of the rain,” Dover said.
But the course was already gathering water on the greens and fairways when the Cavs arrived, and by 10 a.m. the final round was called off and Darton was presented the championship trophy.
Turner said not playing on Sunday took nothing away from the victory — or the streak.
“I think having another 18 holes would have just helped us stretch the lead out,” Turner said. “I don’t think it takes anything away from it. We were down after the first round and had to come back and fight for it.”
The Cavs have now won two straight tournaments heading in to next week’s District IV championship at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club, where they will need a Top 6 finish to qualify for the NJCAA national tournament.
“Winning tournaments in spurts gives us a lot of confidence and momentum,” Turner said. “And on top of that we are playing district at our home course, so we are expecting some good results.”