CULLMAN, ALA. – Sylas Elliott, Eli Marty and the Wallace State men's golf team captured the Wallace State Fall Invitational championship for the second year in a row on Tuesday, prevailing among a stout field at the Cullman Golf Course.
Elliott, a sophomore from Cullman, edged Eastern Florida State's Kerry Sweeney over the final holes to earn low medalist invitational honors for the second time in as many years, and the Lions finished with a 13-under par 851 to begin the fall season on a strong note.
"I'm proud of the team. It's special any time you can get a win over a quality field like we had here. We could have played better, but I'm proud with the results, especially since we are top heavy with freshmen. This is only the first step. We've got a lot of improving to do," said longtime Wallace State golf coach Dan York, who has guided the program since 1987.
Wallace State entered Tuesday's round tied with Eastern Florida State after both teams compiled an 11-under 565 after 36 holes on Monday. The Lions surged to the title behind solid final rounds from Elliott and Marty. Elliott shot a 2-under 70, while Marty had a 3-under 69.
Wallace State carded a two-under 286 in the final round, finishing with its 851. The Lions were two strokes better than Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (853) and seven shots ahead of Eastern Florida State (858).
Wallace State won the tournament last fall as wire-to-wire champions, defeating Eastern Florida by eight shots.
Elliott splashed upon the scene for Wallace State in impressive fashion last September by claiming low medalist honors in the 2014 WSCC Fall Invitational after outlasting Eastern Florida's Mickey DeMorat in a two-hole playoff.
Elliott and the Lions didn't need sudden death Tuesday. Elliott narrowly trailed Sweeney throughout Tuesday's final 18 and ultimately passed him on the 17th hole, where Elliott shot a birdie and Sweeney a bogey. Both players birdied the final hole.
"Winning this tournament is a big confidence booster. I felt I threw some shots away toward the middle of the final round, but some short putts kept me in it. In the end, I pulled through and hit some great shots late. It's not easy and a little intimidating going against the top JUCO golfer in the nation, so I'm going to enjoy it," said Elliott, who was a NJCAA 2nd-team All-American as a freshman and finished 10th in the nation. "More importantly, it's a big win for our team. We have a young squad, so it's a good feeling they contributed as much as they did to our first win."
Elliott, who was a low medalist three times last season, finished with a 10-under 206 for the tournament. He carded a 63-73-70.
Marty was right behind Elliott, placing third in the tournament for the Lions with an 8-under 208. Marty, who was named a 3rd-team NJCAA All-American as a freshman, carded a 72-67-69.
Eastern Florida's Sweeney, who was named the Jack Nicklaus Award winner in the spring as the top golfer among the NJCAA Division I, II, III, NAIA and NJCAA levels, finished second.
Elliott and Marty were each named to the all-tournament team.
"Sylas and Eli have both worked hard. They are two sophomores who already have scholarship offers on the table. I'm extremely proud of both of them. They have to be our leaders," York said. "For Sylas to win the same tournament in back-to-back years is awesome. Seven of the 10 teams here finished first in their respective divisions last season. The competition was very strong."
Sophomore Walker Gordon finished with a 1-over 217 for Wallace State, including shooting a 3-under 69 in the second round on Monday.
Freshman Chip Willoughby carded a 4-over 220 for the Lions in his collegiate debut. Braxton Lemley and Garrett Senia rounded out Wallace State's first flight field.
The Wallace State Invitational field included Andrew (Ga.) College, Darton State (Ga.) College, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Eastern Florida State, Faulkner State, Central Alabama CC, Georgia Northwestern College and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
Wallace State continues its fall season on Sept. 27-29 at TP Country Club in Cullman. The Lions will host the NJCAA District Preview Tournament.
Pictured right: Wallace State sophomore golfer Sylas Elliott watches one of his shots from the tee box during the Wallace State Fall Invitational on Tuesday.
Sylas Ellliott and Eli Marty