It is hard to pick which is the bigger story coming out of the Clemson win at The Hayt played at the original Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
Clemson dominated a field including top ranked FSU and 3rd ranked Wake Forest to win the tournament title by 11 shots.
The other story sharing the headline with the Clemson victory is the win puts Larry Penley, Clemson’s long time coach, within one tournament victory of the record for coaching wins held by the legendary Wake Forest coach Jesse Haddock.
Penley would want the story to be about his team and the way they dominated play in the final round of the tournament.
“This was a great performance against a good field,” said Penley.
The Tigers started the final round trailing the host team from North Florida by a shot. It did not take the Tigers very long to move into the lead.
Once in the lead the Tigers never looked back.
Clemson received outstanding performances the first day from Colby Patton, Kyle Cottam and Turk Pettit. The three played the final round 11 shots better than they carded in the second round.
Clemson pulled away from North Florida in the middle of the final round.
Led by Cottam’s 4-birdies Clemson shot 8 under par on holes number 7 to number 14. The run by the Tigers would be a knock out punch.
“The key today was holes 8-12. We really played well on those five holes.”said Clemson’s coach.
The Tigers benefited from their closest competitor North Florida playing the same set of holes at 8 over par.
Clemson finished off the win over two of the top five and 5 other top 25 teams by 11 shots.
Four Tigers finished in the top-10 individually led by Cottam who finished with at 5-under par 67, two shots behind tournament champion Nick Gabrelcik from North Florida.
Turk Pettit finished in third place tied with the number one player in the country John Pak from Florida State at 7-under par.
Colby Patton had his best finish of the year carding two rounds in the 60s to finish at 4-under par in sixth place.
The Tigers top ranked player, Jacob Bridgeman, did not have two great rounds to start the tournament, but the Tiger golfer on the Haskins Award watch list finished strong.
Bridgeman moved up 17 spots into a tie for 10th after shooting a final round 3-under par 69.
“I love this course, but you have to play well to beat it. We did that today. To win a tournament by 10 shots, against this field everyone need to be in the game and we did that. I am so proud of our team,” said Penley.
The win was the 81st for the Penley coached Tigers. The Clemson coach announced his retirement before the start of the season with the all-time win record for college golf coaches seemingly within reach.
When quizzed about chasing Haddock’s record, Penley said he would rather chase some fish and grand children, but that was before the Tigers upped his coaching win total from 79 to 81, one behind Haddock.
Penley and this year’s veteran Clemson team, four seniors and Bridgeman a junior who is ranked in the top-10 in the country, should have four chances left to tie or break Haddocks’ record.
Clemson will play in the Shoal Creek Classic in Alabama, then the ACC Tournament, an NCAA Regional and likely a trip to the finals again.
“We’re just trying to go out there and play as good as we can and get a couple of wins for coach [Penley] so he can go out on top,” Kyle Cottam told Golfweek online. “Our goal is to do a little better each tournament and be ready to peak when the ACC and the NCAA comes up, and we’ll be at our best, ” he added.
Penley has consistently shunned any comparisons of his 38 year career record to Haddock’s.
“When Haddock coached there were not many tournaments, now there are so many. It really is apples and oranges comparing today to when he set the record,” Penley suggested.
But with one more win there will be two names at the top of the page in the record book.
Clemson next plays in the Shoal Creek Invitational starting on April 5th.