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Remarkable rally propels Tech past JMU in playoff for Georgia State Invitational title

Remarkable rally propels Tech past JMU in playoff for Georgia State Invitational title

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

DULUTH, Ga. – Grit, determination, and execution were all key factors in the Tennessee Tech men's golf team pulling off a remarkable tournament victory at the Georgia State Invitational Tuesday afternoon, competing at Berkeley Hills Country Club in Duluth, Ga.

Trailing by nine strokes heading into the event's final round of action, the Golden Eagles dug deep and fired off the best round of the tournament by far to jettison from sixth on the scoreboard into a tie for first place with James Madison among the 16-team field. Tech used a 7-under 281 to force a sudden-death playoff with JMU on the par-4 18th hole.

"It was a really good, collective team effort," Tech head coach Polk Brown expressed. "We talked bout mental toughness and resiliency throughout the tournament. The greens were pretty much brand new and could be frustrating with some of the bounces shots took, but the guys handled it well. They chipped away little by little. We needed help from the other teams as well and took advantage at the end."

Three Golden Eagles and two Dukes made up the first of two fivesomes headed No. 18 to duke it out, including Mark McDearman, Haden Maxwell, and Anders Larson. Both members of the JMU squad delivered pars while McDearman and Larson matched the efforts. 

Maxwell, a freshman for the Cookeville crew, provided the purple and gold with a lead, just barely lipping out a chip for eagle and settling for a go-ahead birdie. Three members of the James Madison group made up the second fivesome with Tech's Jackson Skeen and Chance Taylor.

All five golfers made their way to the green with birdie putts within 15 feet. The furthest out, Taylor went first and narrowly missed his chance, finishing with a par. The Dukes gathered their own birdie to even the playoff up and another par from the team kept things deadlocked with one golfer each left.

In need of a clutch putt, the Golden Eagles turned to the same sophomore who earlier in the day was named Ohio Valley Conference Male Golfer of the Month. Skeen answered the call, sinking a downhill, 10-footer for the go-ahead birdie. James Madison's final player missed his birdie opportunity, giving the purple and gold the playoff victory at 2-under and the team's first tournament crown since claiming the Big Blue Intercollegiate during the 2018-19 season.

"It was pretty awesome," Brown said. "Nine back is not a lot in college golf, but we knew we needed to shoot under par to have a chance. We had easily the lowest round of the day. A lot of things have to go your way, and today they did."

Not only did Skeen provide the winning putt on the day, he also took home his first career individual medalist honor, rifling off the lowest round of the tournament to climb the leaderboard and best the other 86 golfers in competition. Powered by seven birdies, he dropped a 5-under 67 to round out the day with a 208.

He became the first Golden Eagle to capture a tournament title since Nick Sutton won the Battle at Black Creek last fall. 

"Jackson has been playing at a high, high level and we need that to continue for the team to be successful," Brown expressed. "We beat some really good teams this week. It's hard to win and we hope to keep it going." 

Just as critical to the team's victory was McDearman, carding a 3-under 69 with five birdies. The junior tied for 41st overall with a 225 after besting his best round from Monday by seven shots. Taylor also put forth a great effort in the final round of action, shooting even-par behind five birdies and an excellent 2-under showing on the back nine alone. He tied for 21st overall with a score of 221.

Tying for 27th in the field, Maxwell continued to improve in his second career tournament, completing the day with a season-best 222. The rookie produced a 1-over 73, sporting a birdie and 15 pars along the way. Fellow freshman Anders Larson tallied a 77 to conclude the second event of his young career. He tied for 35th with a 224.

Competing as an individual, Bryce Beeler concluded his first event of the season with a 74 and a pair of birdies. The senior tied for 52nd overall, posting a 229.

Next on the docket for the Golden Eagles is a trip to Maineville, Ohio and the Xavier Invitational at TPC River's Bend. The 54-hole event will run from Monday, Oct. 10 through Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Top 5 Teams:
1.    Tennessee Tech*    295-291-281=867    +3
2.   James Madison   289-288-290=867   +3
3.   Lipscomb   293-289-286=868   +4
4.   Wright State   290-291-292=873   +9
5.   Georgia State   299-284-300=883   +19
  *won via playoff


Leaderboard (87 Golfers)
1.    Jackson Skeen    71-70-67=208    -8
T-21.   Chance Taylor   75-74-72=221   +5
T-27.   Haden Maxwell   75-74-73=222   +6
T-35.   Anders Larson   74-73-77=224   +8
T-41.   Mark McDearman   80-76-69=225   +9
T-52.   Bryce Beeler*   76-79-74=229   +13
 *competed as an individual

Photos by TTU Golf

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