Eldridge leads men’s golf to fourth place CAA finish

Noah Thomas | Sports Editor

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Last weekend, UNC Wilmington’s men’s golf season came to a close at St. James Plantation in Southport, North Carolina, the site of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.

The Seahawks, behind stellar top-10 performances by sophomores Thomas Eldridge and Patrick Cover, finished fourth overall in the team standings by the time the weekend had come to a close.

College of Charleston took its third straight conference championship after accumulating a 16-stroke lead heading into the tournament’s final round. UNCW held second place at that point, but slipped back two spots after no Seahawks were able to score a sub-par round.

Eldridge, named to the All-Tournament team after finishing at even-par for the weekend, placed fourth individually. Cover joined him in the top-10, finishing with a seventh place 2-over score.

“It felt good. I would have liked to finish a little better for sure,” Eldridge said, “but overall I was pleased with how I played. Anytime I can jump out to a good start and make it easier on the other guys it’s nice.”

St. James, a par-72 golf course near Oak Island, continued its title of being the site of the CAA’s annual conference championship. Being the golf destination that it is, southeastern North Carolina’s coastal climate provided for fair playing conditions the whole way through. 

“I would say it played a little bit easier than last year, and maybe that’s just because I had another year of experience, but the scores were a little lower this year. The wind was pretty tricky as usual for down there.”

After posting a 4-under round on Saturday to counter a 2-over score the day before, Eldridge’s score drew back to even on Sunday after bookending the tournament with another 2-over round. 

“I’d say a cool moment was on the second day,” Eldridge said. “I played really well all day but bogeyed the 17th, then I hit my tee shot on 18 in a fairway bunker. And I’ve had some struggles with fairway bunkers this semester, and I ended up hitting the flagstick on my 2nd shot and making birdie.”

UNCW finished without a tournament win in 2016 despite a handful of second place finishes in various events over the course of the year, so the underwhelming finish at St. James came as a disappointment for the Seahawks.

“I thought we really competed hard,” Eldridge said. “Obviously we didn’t play as well as we hoped or envisioned, but we competed. We never got down on ourselves We fought until the end and we never felt like we were out of it.”

Under eighth-year head coach Matt Clark, the Seahawks will begin to prepare for the 2017 season over this summer in the hopes of making a run and dethroning College of Charleston at the top of the CAA.