April 29, 2014
INNISBROOK, Fla. (SMU) - The SMU Mustangs posted the low team round of the day to win the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship by five strokes after the final round in Innisbrook, Fla., on Tuesday. Sophomore Bryson Dechambeau took individual medalist honors by five shots, finishing the event at seven-under par.
SMU won its ninth team championship and first since winning three straight from 2004-06, while Dechambeau earned the program's first individual title since Will Dodson won two straight in 2005 and 2006. With the conference championship, SMU also earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals from May 15-17.
"This was a huge day for us," SMU head coach Josh Gregory said. "For us to sweep the individual title and team title was incredible. We have had so many close calls; this one was long overdue.
"The guys truly brought patience this week and did well handling their emotions. We are fortunate enough to be in a great golf conference and we are honored to win the American. This is a huge step for our program and great momentum heading into the NCAA postseason."
The Mustangs began the day one stroke behind No. 7 UCF, but quickly tied the tournament on the front nine. SMU, UCF and USF all shared or solely held the lead during the front nine. SMU managed to pull away over the back nine, led by Dechambeau's three birdies over four holes (14-17) and senior Harry Higgs' minus-four score over his last 10 holes. Over the last six holes, SMU's lead was never less than four strokes.
Dechambeau, who collected his first collegiate win, held a one-stroke lead on the field to begin the final round, and never relinquished the lead at any point on Tuesday. The Clovis, Calif., native finished as one of just three players to finish under par for the tournament, carding a seven-under 206 for the event. Dechambeau was also the only player in the field to post two rounds in the 60s at the Innisbrook Resort - Copperhead Course.
"This win is a great step in the right direction for our team," Dechambeau said. "I couldn't be more proud of how we handled ourselves like professionals and for that I am most proud."
Sophomore Austin Smotherman also earned a top-five finish, finishing tied for fourth at an even-par 213. Higgs tied for 12th after carding a one-under 70 in the final round, including a three-under back nine. Ryan Burgess tied for 19th to give SMU four players in the top 20.
UCF earned runner-up honors and No. 9 Houston placed third in the tournament, eight strokes off SMU's pace. USF took fourth and Louisville rounded out the top five.
SMU will learn its NCAA Regional destination on May 5, as the NCAA Championship selections will be announced on the Golf Channel from 10-11 a.m. during Morning Drive.
Dechambeau and the whole SMU squad are not only thrilled on the league title, but are looking forward to successes in the NCAA postseason.
"It was a great breakthrough win for me but I am more proud of SMU golf," Dechambeau said. "This will be great momentum for us going into the postseason. I can't wait for the coming weeks ahead."