MIROMAR LAKES, Fla. – The FGCU men’s golf team carried a 15-shot lead into the final round of the Cobra-PUMA Invitational at Miromar Lakes Golf Club, and the Eagles comfortably held on by 13 strokes to win the tournament title for the third straight year with a final-round 287 on Monday.
Junior transfer Blake Biggs (Peoria, Ill./Eastern Florida State College/Peoria Notre Dame HS) saved his best round of the young season for the biggest stage as he fired a 2-under 70 to lead the Eagles in the final round as three of FGCU’s four counting scores were even-par or better.
Not contributing to that team score but still leaving his mark on the 7,155-yard course layout for the second straight year was Edward Figueroa (Naples, Fla./St. John Neumann HS) who shot his third round of the tournament in the 60s with a 3-under 69. The sophomore finished tied for the lowest overall score with Ryan McCormick from St. John’s as each shot 12-under 204, but McCormick took the medalist title due to his better final round (67).
The win was the first for FGCU of the 2013-14 season and the eighth overall for head coach Brent Jensen since taking over the helm beginning in 2010-11. It is the 37th all-time tournament victory since 2000-01 for one of FGCU’s original sports, and marks the 16th win in the Division-I era (2007-08).
FAU finished in second place with an 868 total, while Bethune-Cookman was third in the 13-team field with an 869. Only one other team in the tournament entered with a better Golfweek ranking than FGCU at No. 99, and that was No. 93 St. John’s, but the Eagles finished 27 shots clear of the fourth-place Red Storm. Last year the Green and Blue claimed the Cobra-PUMA Invitational title by 19 shots, and two years ago it triumphed by a single shot.
“It’s extremely important to defend home turf; anytime you host a tournament the goal is to win and bring home the hardware with your fans there watching,” Jensen said. “Edward and Jack (Hernandez) are both solid players and they’ve been playing well for us all year. Edward struggled a little bit in our first few events, but he’s a good player and it was only a matter of time before he bounced back and played the way that we all know he’s capable of.”
Hernandez (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot HS) finished tied for 5th overall despite shooting his worst round of the tournament with a 2-over 74 on Monday. The junior carded season-best rounds of 1-under 71 and 4-under 68 in the opening rounds Sunday and concluded his event with a 213 total to lead the five golfers in the FGCU lineup.
Matt Cote (Palm Harbor, Fla./Palm Harbor University HS) rebounded from a second-round 76 – tied for the worst score all tournament among the FGCU lineup – with a final-round 1-under 71. Coupled with his first-round 67, the senior also shot the two best rounds of his season this week and finished tied for 7th with a 2-under 214.
Biggs tied for 11th with an even-par 216 total, a number matched by freshman Jordan Miller (Bradenton, Fla./Bradenton Christian School) who wrapped up his third straight round of 72 on Monday. Classmate Casper Howells (London, England/Bradfield College) rounded out the Eagles’ lineup with a T-26 performance (222) and a final-round 76.
Figueroa played as an individual – meaning his scores did not count toward the Eagles’ team score – and he put together the second-best tournament in terms of low 54-hole total in program history. The SWFL native’s 204 is tied with two other golfers (Daniel Mazziotta and Ryan Michals). Figueroa owns the best 54-hole performance in program history as last year at this same event he shot a 200 (-16). On Sunday, the sophomore shot the second-best score relative to par through the first 36 holes of a tournament in program history.
All 11 FGCU golfers on the roster competed in the tournament right across the street from campus but hosted primarily by Xavier University. Competing for the Green and Blue for the first time, Mike Andre (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers HS) concluded his initial tournament with an impressive 1-under round of 71 to finish second overall only to Figueroa among individual players. The local product tied for 13th overall with rounds of 72-74-71 (217).
“Something that we’ve struggled with the past few years is having depth on our team, but we’ve got 11 guys on our team and every one of them can play any week,” Jensen surmised of his club’s depth. “Out of our first four events of the year we’ve had eight different guys play in the starting 5 lineup. I’m really pleased with the future of the FGCU golf program and what we’ve got to look forward to.”
Rounding out the individual lineup for FGCU were Jake Sherwin (Fort Myers, Fla./Evangelical Christian HS) who tied for 33rd (76-74-74: 224), Keaton Jones (Kitchener, Ontario/St. Mary’s HS) who tied for 50th (75-80-75: 230), Conrad Hahne (Ramsey, Minn. South Fort Myers HS) who matched Jones’s 230 (74-79-77) and Phillip Boljanovich (Naples, Fla./FLVS) who finished 69th with a 242 (77-85-80).
The Eagles conclude their fall season with a trip to Jacksonville next week for the UNF/Georgia Southern Intercollegiate Monday, Nov. 4 and Tuesday, Nov. 5. The tournament will be the final one for the team until it commences its spring season in early February.
T-1) Edward Figueroa (69-66-69: 204)
T-5) Jack Hernandez (71-68-74: 213)
T-7) Matt Cote (67-76-71: 214)
T-11) Blake Biggs (74-72-70: 216)
T-11) Jordan Miller (72-72-72: 216)
T-13) Mike Andre (72-74-71: 217)
T-26) Casper Howells (72-74-76: 222)
T-33) Jake Sherwin (76-74-74: 224)
T-50) Keaton Jones (75-80-75: 230)
T-50) Conrad Hahne (74-79-77: 230)
69) Phillip Boljanovich (77-85-80: 242)
TOURNAMENT FIELD (Golfweek Rankings)
1) #99 FGCU (282-286-287: 855)
2) #178 FAU (291-292-285: 868)
3) #163 Bethune-Cookman (292-294-283: 869)
4) #93 St. John’s (298-299-285: 882)
5) #232 Georgetown (302-291-295: 888)
6) #194 Ohio (302-298-289: 889)
7) #190 Arkansas State (298-294-298: 890)
8) #240 Stetson (298-290-304: 892)
9) #162 Xavier (305-288-300: 893)
10) #245 Northern Kentucky (307-291-303: 901)
11) #254 Saint Joseph’s (308-291-306: 905)
12) #235 Dayton (306-291-311: 908)
13) #282 Savannah State (317-316-306: 939)