Kirkwood’s Sean Cleary
Two Eagles land on Second Team All-American squad
The Kirkwood golf team jumped from tenth to fourth place at the NJCAA Division II National Golf Tournament thanks to a strong team effort on the final day of competition. The team shot the second best combined score of any team on the last day of the four-day event.
The Eagles, who were ranked sixth in the nation at the conclusion of the regular season, qualified for the national tournament by winning the Region XI tournament. The trip to nationals was the ninth time in the last 10 years for Kirkwood as a team and it’s the 17th straight time the Eagles have been represented either as a team or on an individual level at the tournament. The fourth place finish was the best for Kirkwood since 2006 when the Eagles closed out the season by finishing second. Head Coach Darin Pint has a history of getting the most out of his players as this season marks the 12th time in the last 14 years that his teams finished in the top 15 in the nation.
“I thought we really competed for four straight days even after our tough start to the tournament,” said Pint. “The kids showed their character knowing they had a huge hill to climb. A top four finish in the nation is a very nice way to end the year for these five sophomores. They’ve had a lot of success over the past two years and this just adds to their resumes.”
Sophomores Jordan Azbell (Peosta, Iowa) and Sean Cleary (Tipperary, Ireland), who both individually finished at four-over par for the tournament, led the Eagles and were named Second Team All-Americans. Azbell was also named to the All-Tournament team.
“Those two kids played really well all week,” said Pint. “They knew it was a long week and never let one bad shot turn into two or three. I thought Jordan’s 67 in the final round was about as good a round as I’ve seen in my 17 years. To make 5 birdies and 0 bogeys in windy, firm conditions showed everyone how talented this kid can be when he’s on top of things. Sean probably had his best week as an Eagle considering he really struggled in last year’s national tournament. I was proud of him for coming back and proving he was a better player than that.”
Losing two All-Americans as well as a handful of other sophomore leaders to graduation can create a void on any athletics team, but Pint sees promise in next year’s squad.
“Next year we will be fairly talented but very inexperienced,” said Pint. “There will need to be some leaders stand out right away in the fall. I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting these incoming kids to buy in just like these exiting sophomores.”
The final statistics for the Eagles in the national tournament are as follows:
Kirkwood 304-288-297-296=1185 (+33) 4th
75-72-78-67=292 (+4) 18th
75-70-72-75=292 (+4) 20th
78-74-76-74=302 (+14) t-45th
78-73-72-80=303 (+15) t-52nd
76-73-77-80=306 (+18) t-69th