Coastal settles for second, awaits at-large bid to NCAA

Battling rain on the final day of the 2012 Big South Men’s Golf Championships, Coastal Carolina carded a 296 for a 54-hole total of 10-under 854 to finish runner-up at the par 72, 7,120-yard Patriot Club at Grand Harbor.

The 854 was Coastal’s best 54-hole score of the 2011-12 season by six strokes, ties for 14th as the best 54-hole score in CCU history and is the program’s second-best 54-hole score at the conference championships. Liberty won the team title with a 20-under 844 and Flames senior Robert Karlsson was individual medalist with a 10-under 206.

Also on Wednesday, the Big South announced its Men’s Golf annual award winners.  The awards were voted on by the head coaches prior to the Championship and are based on regular-season performance.  Coastal Carolina’s Ben Wheeler was voted Freshman of the Year, the Chanticleers’ first honoree since 2008 and fourth overall, joining Julian James (1998), Zack Byrd (2005) and Tripp McAllister (2008).

Wheeler is the top-rated rookie in the league, according to Golfweek, and was the only freshman in the league to win Big South Golfer of the Week honors. Wheeler ranked second on the team with a 74.67 strokes per round average, playing in seven events leading into the Championships. He ended the regular season with an impressive performance in one of the nation’s toughest fields, shooting 4-under 212 to tie for 18th at the Insperity Augusta State Invitational. He carded a 66 in round two, becoming just the seventh Chanticleer to shoot a 66 or better.

Wheeler was not the only Chanticleer to get honored Wednesday. Sophomore Roberto Ballesteros played his way onto the All-Big South team. Prior the Championships, the league coaches voted five players to the All-Big South team, including CCU junior Sebastian Soderberg.

Soderberg posted a career-best finish at this year’s Championships, shooting a 5-under par 211. It marked the first time he finished the Championships with three rounds of par or better. The three-time All-Big South honoree posted rounds of 71-68-72. He finished among the top 10 for the third time in his career, placing fourth this season, seventh (tied) in 2011 and fourth (tied) in 2010.

Today, Soderberg was 1-under after nine holes and proceeded to birdie the par 4 10th hole. He would bogey 11 before getting back to 2-under with a birdie on the 12th hole. However, bogeys on 14 and 16 would result in the even-par round of 72.

Ballesteros moved up three spots into a tie for sixth and earn his way on to the All-Big South team. The sophomore tied for 11th last season with a 7-over par 223. This week, Ballesteros had rounds of 71-69-73 to finish with a career-best 3-under par 213. This marked his second tournament to finish under par as he carded a 1-under 215 in the team’s first event of 2011-12. On Wednesday, Ballesteros had a good start with a birdie on the first hole, but he had bogeys on holes 2, 5 and 6. He ended the front side with a birdie on eight and bogey on nine. He rallied to birdie holes 12 and 13 to get to even par, but a bogey on the par 3 17th led to his 73.

Senior Charlie Winegardner just missed his second career All-Big South honor, finishing ninth at the 2012 Championships. Winegardner was tied for second after 18 and 36 holes with rounds of 69 and 68, respectively. He carded a 77 on the final day and his 2-under 214 was one stroke behind those who played their way onto the All-Big South team.  Winegardner finished under par for the first time at the Championships after shooting 2-over 218 to finish eighth in 2010 and 16-over 223 to finish 33rd in 2011. Also the 214 marks the second-lowest 54-hole score in Winegardner’s career, shooting 211 two weeks earlier at the Insperity Augusta State Invitational.

Freshman Peter Valasek shot a 2-over 74 to move up two spots and finish tied for 12th with a 1-over 217 in his first appearance at the Championships. He turned in a 75 in round one and 68 in round two. Valasek had 14 pars, three bogeys and a birdie for his 74 Wednesday. This marked his best finish in relation to par and the 217 was his second-best, 54-hole score as he shot 213 at the par 70 Windon Memorial this past fall.

Wheeler carded a 77 Wednesday and, after rounds of 74-69, finished his first Big South Championship tied for 18th with a 4-over 220.

Coastal Carolina will wait to see if it will earn an at large berth to the NCAA Regional Championships. If so, it would mark nine consecutive years for the Chants to reach the postseason.

– Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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