Sept. 11, 2012
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Louisiana Tech freshman Victor Lange won't soon forget his first collegiate event, and rightly so.
Neither will Bulldog head coach Jeff Parks.
Parks watched the Johannesburg, South Africa native fire a final round one-under-par 70 Tuesday to complete the two-day, 54-hole event at eight-under-par (205) and capture the individual title at the 2012 Sam Hall Intercollegiate hosted by Southern Mississippi at the Hattiesburg Country Club.
It was a special day for both Lange and Parks and the Bulldog golf team for a number of reasons.
First, there was Lange's performance. Only in the United States for less than two weeks, the 18-year-old played like a wily old veteran, recording 14 birdies, one eagle, eight bogeys and 31 pars during the event while becoming the first Tech golfer since Amrith de Soysa in 2008 to win an event.
"Obviously, this was special," said Tech head coach Jeff Parks. "He looked very comfortable doing it, and he had a good time. He enjoyed it. His goal was to win and that is what he did."
According to Parks, one of the secret's to Lange's success was his introduction to a staple of American cuisine ... the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Sitting at three-under-par on the ninth tee box in Monday's second round, Parks handed Lange his afternoon snack.
"I had my first PBJ sandwich on the course yesterday," Lange said. "Every time I (took a bite) I would have a string of birdies. Today, he gave it to me on the fifth tee box and immediately after, I holed out my second shot from 180 yards for an eagle. I loved it. I kept asking coach `What have I been missing all my life.'"
"I was just doing my job; service cart driver," Parks joked.
The eagle came on the par four, 442-yard hole No. 5 and was followed by a birdie on the par 4, 419-yard No. 6. It put Lange at 10-under-par and gave the freshman a four stroke lead.
"I wasn't really nervous," Lange said. "I've been in the position many times before. I slept well last night. This morning I started with four straight pars. When I holed the second shot (on No. 5), my dad was standing up by the green. I couldn't see it, but they erupted as the ball went in. It was a cool moment. It was a turning point in my round."
"It really jump started his round," Parks said. "He had an up and down round overall. However, that shot really knocked out the nerves."
Despite the early four-shot lead, the victory came down to the last hole as Lange took a one shot lead into No. 18 while playing alongside his nearest competitor in South Alabama's Michael Garretson. After tattooing his tee shot down the middle of the fairway, Lange put a pitching wedge on the back edge of the green and then two-putted for the win.
"He knew where he stood because was playing with his opponent," Parks said. "We knew a par would win it. The other guy had already hit and would have to make a long putt to tie. Victor played it smart. Hit back fringe and then two putted it."
Lange said he was pleased with the win.
"I didn't really know what to expect," Lange said. "I just drew up a game plan from the start and stuck with it for the whole tournament. The game is still the same regardless of where you play. I just stuck to my game plan. I didn't have expectations. I took it as it came."
In addition to Lange's impressive performance, Parks said that there were two other special moments during Tuesday's final round.
"They had an American flag on the 18th flagstick and there was a service man from Camp Shelby tending the pin for each group," Parks said. "It was really special. It was a neat touch and something I won't forget. It reminded me what a luxury it is to have the freedom to play golf and do what we do every day. We shouldn't ever take our military men and women and police and firefighters for granted."
During the ceremony in which Lange was given his award for winning the event, Southern Miss Athletics Director Jeff Hammond spoke to the group about his memory of 911. Hammond was a general major in the United States Army and was at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 when the plane struck the building.
"It was an amazing story," Parks said. "He was trapped when the plane hit the building and was fortunate to get out. He said about a minute before the plane hit, he called his wife to tell her he loved her and would always love her. He told us we should always live our lives and treat our loved ones as if we had 15 seconds left to live."
Lange wasn't the only Bulldog golfer to have an impressive showing at the event as junior Travis Wilmore finished in a tie for fourth place with a three round total of 210 (72-69-69).
"Travis played solid," Parks said. "He had a couple of holes that got him. He did what he needed to do. From a team standpoint I'm excited about the start."
Freshman Ben Robinson finished tied for 40th with a 219 (73-72-74) while junior Jack Lempke (75-74-73=222) finished tied for 51st and senior Sam Forgan (77-78-69=224) tied for 60th. Freshman Brandon Newton, playing as an individual, finished 79th with a total of 232.
"Sam came back and played well today as I expected he would," Parks said. "I was happy for Ben in his first tournament. He played solid golf, especially for someone who just stepped off the plane and into the van. Jack didn't have his best stuff this week, but he bared down and got it done. His short game helped him a lot. Brandon got a good taste of what college golf is about and he was able to compete. He got a good idea about what it will take."
As a team, the Bulldogs finished fourth in the 15-team event with a three-round total of one-under-par 851. Ole Miss (845) won the event followed by Mississippi State (846), South Alabama (850), LA Tech, Southeastern Louisiana (853), Samford (853), Southern Miss (860), UL-Lafayette (864), UALR (865), Sam Houston State (867), UTSA (872), UL-Monroe (875), Arkansas State (878), Rice (883) and McNeese State (900).
"We were six shots out of the lead and the first round was tough on our upper classmen," Parks said. "As a team I'm excited because our young guys came in and played well. Overall, it takes all five and we needed every one of them. We will need every one of them in the future."
Tech returns to action Oct. 1 and 2 when it hosts the Squire Creek Invitational.