FORT MYERS, Fla. – Led by tournament co-medalist Brandon Pena’s (Clewiston, Fla./Clewiston HS) four-under par 68, the FGCU men’s golf team held off a final round surge by Eastern Kentucky to come away with a team title at the 12-team Cobra-PUMA Invitational hosted by Xavier University at nearby Miromar Lakes Golf Club.
The Eagles entered the day with a five-stroke lead over Loyola-Maryland, but it was Eastern Kentucky who gave the Green and Blue the biggest scare. The Colonels entered the day in fifth place and their final round 15-under par 273 fell just one stroke shy of FGCU for first place. The Eagles’ team score of 289 was their second of the tournament, capping a three-round 289-275(-13)-289/853(-11).
“I’m really proud of the guys for coming into today with the right mindset and going out and holding on for the team title,” said head coach Brent Jensen, who has led FGCU to a trio of team titles since taking over last year. “We had some really good individual performances and it’s great to see guys step up in pressure situations. I’m excited at the progress we’ve made over the last few weeks and now we need to build off that heading into next weekend.”
Pena’s final round 68 was his third straight under-par round of the tournament, but Eastern Kentucky’s Bill Peel Jr. shot a tournament-low seven-under 65 on Monday to tie for medalist honors. Pena produced FGCU’s lowest score in all three rounds en route to a 71(-1)-67(-5)-68(-4)/206(-10). The Clewiston, Fla. product carded 13 birdies and a pair of eagles over the 54 holes and ranked second in par 5 scoring (-8).
The individual tournament title is the first of Pena’s illustrious four-year career after finishing runner-up in a tournament in each of the last two seasons. A second team Atlantic Sun All-Conference performer in 2011, Pena has contributed a counting score in 33 straight rounds and now has 20 career under-par rounds.
As a team, FGCU led the field in par 4 scoring (+16) and finished at 25-under on the par 5s. The Eagles (52) were one of four teams to card 50 or more birdies and tied for second with 165 pars. FGCU’s individuals combined for nine under-par rounds, four more than any other team.
FGCU’s run to the team title was also fueled by the squad’s Fort Myers duo of freshman Jack Hernandez (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) and senior Alex Medinis (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers HS), who combined to go 10-under for the tournament.
Like Pena, Hernandez (71-68-71/210) produced three consecutive under-par rounds to finish in sole possession of fourth place. His four-under 68 in round two was sandwiched between a pair of one-under 71s to start and finish the tournament. The recent Bishop Verot HS grad played the par 5s at seven-under and was tied for second with Medinis in par 4 scoring (-2). Medinis carded his second straight two-under par 70 in the final round to move up into a three-way tie for sixth place in the 68-player field. His 10th career top 10 finish featured a team-high 38 pars.
The final counting score of the afternoon came from sophomore Matt Cote (Palm Harbor, Fla./Palm Harbor University HS), who finished 40th overall with a 75-70(-2)-80/225. Playing as an individual, junior Kyle English (Bloomington, Ill./University HS) produced the first top 20 finish of his career thanks to a final round three-under 69 that moved him into a tie for 14th overall. English finished tied for the tournament lead with 15 birdies and played the par 5s at seven-under.
Host Xavier (863) and Loyola-Maryland (863) both finished at one-under for the tournament to tie for third place, while No. 38 Ball State (866) rounded out the top five.
FGCU will get just a few days off before heading north to Chicago for the John Dallio Memorial hosted by DePaul University. It will mark the second straight year the Eagles have played in the tournament, finishing second last fall. The tournament will commence with 36 holes on Saturday, Oct. 8 and a final round on Sunday at Ruffled Feathers Golf Club.
FGCU PARTICIPANTS T-1. Brandon Pena – 71(-1)-67(-5)-68(-4)/206(-10) 4. Jack Hernandez – 71(-1)-68(-4)-71(-1)/210(-6) T-6. Alex Medinis – 72(E)-70(-2)-70(-2)/212(-4) 40. Matt Cote – 75-70(-2)-80/225 T-61. Patrick Williams – 75-82-81/238