Johnston championship highlights golf run to nationals Eagles qualify for NCAA tournament in first year of eligibility
Sam Johnston won the individual crown while Oklahoma Christian placed second in the Super Regional team race to qualify for the NCAA Division II Championship.
In the team competition, the Eagles made a name for themselves by leading the way after the first two rounds and battling No. 1 Chico State down to the wire. Johnston, a senior from San Diego and a two-time Heartland Conference player of the year, fired a sizzling 5-under 66 in the final round to clinch the individual championship.
Coming off its strong showing at the Super Regional, Oklahoma Christian uncharacteristically struggled at the national tournament, placing 14th in the NCAA Division II Championship. OC’s amazing streak of 16 straight top-four national-tournament finishes – a run established and built upon during the program’s NAIA and NCCAA days – ended in the Eagles’ first season in NCAA Division II.
But coach David Lynn chose to look at the positives, noting a five-man team with three freshmen and a sophomore in the lineup made it further than most expected, just by qualifying for the Division II tournament. His team became the first in OC’s NCAA history to qualify for a national tournament and did so in its first season of eligibility to do so.
“I’m really just going to focus on how the year went,” Lynn said after the final round at nationals. “What an amazing year for us, to get to come here and participate in the NCAA finals. Nobody knew at the beginning of the year what we would have a chance to accomplish, with seven freshmen and two sophomores, and I couldn’t be more proud of the guys, just in general, how they played. Today didn’t go our way, but it was a great year.”
Johnston, playing in his final collegiate tournament, salvaged a 2-under 70 on the 7,327-yard layout and tied for 20th in the 108-man field at 2-under 214, 11 shots behind the NCAA Division II individual champion, Hugo Bernard of St. Leo.
“I don’t have any problems saying (Johnston is) one of the best golfers that we’ve ever had,” Lynn said. “He won seven tournaments playing a Division II schedule only. It’s been a pleasure to have Sam on the team.”
In women’s play, All-American Audrey Meisch became the first female OC athlete to compete in a NCAA national championship event.
“She had a great career,” OC coach Greg Lynn said. “She’s been a great asset to the university. She represents the university in a great way. We are extremely proud of her and it’s been a joy to have her in our program. We’re blessed.”
View more stories from the Summer 2016 issue of Vision magazine.